The Business Year

Bruce Gosper

UAE, ABU DHABI - Diplomacy

Home & Away

CEO, Australian Trade Commission (Austrade)


Bruce Gosper was appointed CEO of Austrade on February 1, 2013. Previously he had been Deputy Secretary with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) since February 2009. In that role he was Australia’s Senior Trade Policy Official, responsible for all related negotiations. He was Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva from 2005 until 2009. He was also Chair of the WTO General Council in 2008—09 and Chair of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body in the 2007—08 period. Prior to this appointment, he had held a range of posts within DFAT. Gosper is a graduate of Macquarie University and the University of New England.

"There are something like 350 Australian companies in the UAE and more than 16,000 resident Australians living and working."

Could you talk about your vision for developing business ties with the UAE?

Our vision of ties between Australia and the UAE is clear and positive, because there is already a multi-faceted relationship that seems to be growing rapidly. The base is already robust as the UAE is our largest trading partner in the Middle East. The UAE is very familiar to many Australians, and there are over 350 Australian firms operating there. And the UAE’s presence in Australia is also increasing. The UAE is a major infrastructure investor in Australia, and there are two important partnerships: the Emirates-Qantas partnership and the Etihad-Virgin partnership, which both link to the UAE. These partnerships are increasing person-to-person contact, which is very important for furthering economic relationships and developing some depth and sustainability. Education is a prime example of an area where we are moving beyond simply seeing students arrive in Australia to study. For example, the Abu Dhabi Vocational Education and Training Institute are developing a new framework of qualifications for vocational training using Australian standards. This is an area where real depth and substance is being added to the relationship. We are very positive about it, and view it as one of the areas where Australia needs to be devoting its efforts. We are planning to hold a major program that will bring together businesspeople and others in April 2014 in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi around the theme of “Australia Unlimited,” which will give us an opportunity to talk about trade, investment, cultural ties, and the opportunities that lie therein.

What are Australia’s competitive advantages as an investment destination for UAE investors?

The most important consideration is that we are a low risk proposition and provide stable returns. We are in a competitive world for investment dollars; yet we remain a substantial market. We are the fourth largest market in the Asia-Pacific region, and have experienced 22 years of economic growth. Australia has an innovative economy, a skilled workforce, a strategic location in the Asia-Pacific region, and a stable and transparent business environment. Yet while all of these are important parts of the mix, the key factor is a stable environment of low risk and solid returns. We have already seen this investment happen, with major commitments in tourism, infrastructure, and in the New South Wales ports, which are highly significant. We are keen to ensure our competitiveness. The government is placing much emphasis on attracting investment and lowering costs in Australia. We want to make sure everyone understands that we are open for business and that we want to do our utmost to encourage investment from all our partners. It has put into play a very strong portfolio of major infrastructure projects; the government itself is investing and looking for others to do so. I foresee considerable potential here. We know that we have to work out how to be competitive and how to attract investment, but the key message is that the UAE is a very important source of wealth, and we hope we are providing the right environment to attract that to Australia.

“There are something like 350 Australian companies in the UAE and more than 16,000 resident Australians living and working.”

Do you anticipate seeing more Australian companies participating in the energy and industry sectors of Abu Dhabi itself?

Yes, I think so. There are already Australian companies involved in power plants, solar farms, and wind energy plants. We are working with the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority to share some of our expertise and to help address some of the challenges to reduce carbon footprints. Part of this is based on the fact that we face somewhat similar climatic issues and water scarcity. Those are some of the areas where we think we have solutions or technology that is relevant. Work is already underway with Abu Dhabi on that front.

What are the factors that have encouraged so many Australians to do business in the UAE?

There are something like 350 Australian companies in the UAE and more than 16,000 resident Australians living and working. People tell us that this is because the UAE is very welcoming, and that Australians feel very comfortable living and working in the country. The openness of the UAE to the skills and expertise that others can bring is an important part of that, as are the connections that the various airlines provide. The way in which some of the business networks are working, such as the Australian Business Council in Dubai and the Business Group in Abu Dhabi, contribute to it. Therefore, as a result of that, many Australians in areas including construction, financial services, banking, agriculture, and health are finding something to contribute in Abu Dhabi.

© The Business Year – December 2013



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