Launch of Australian-Latin American Relations book
13 April, 2016
Remarks by Australia’s Ambassador to Mexico, Dr David Engel
Damas y caballeros:
Me complace poder presentarme como el nuevo Embajador de Australia ante México.
Especialmente porque este año celebramos el cincuenta aniversario de relaciones diplomáticas entre Australia y México.
Es un placer estar aquí hoy para el lanzamiento del libro “Australian Latin American Relations: New Links in a Changing Global Landscape”.
Dichas relaciones son de larga data
Sin embargo considero que el entorno global actual exige una revalorización de estas relaciones.
Me gustaría poder continuar hablando en español.
Pero todavía no cuento con el dominio de su bello idioma para hacerlo posible.
Si me lo permiten, voy a continuar mi discurso en inglés.
Ladies and Gentlemen
I’m delighted to be here for the launch of this publication, which I trust will shed more light on the reality and potential of Australia’s relations with Latin America.
Tonight I want to speak specifically on Australia-Mexico relations, and to emphasise several key messages.
First, Australia and Mexico have more reason now than ever to forge a close and mutually beneficial partnership, and more and more of us are starting to realise this.
But, second, we’re just at the start of this new relationship, and we still have much to do to ensure it achieves its potential.
And third, the field of creativity and technological innovation is one in which we are both intent on playing, and playing together will serve both our interests especially well.
Let me elaborate on the first of these points.
Australia and Mexico are, in many ways, natural partners.
We are both large, resilient economies committed to reform and to liberal trade and investment policies.
We are significant regional powers playing responsible roles in regional and global affairs.
We are among the world’s major producers of energy, mineral commodities and agricultural exports.
And both our countries are dedicated to international cooperation aimed at addressing the complex issues facing the world, including climate change, international security, development and gender equality.
In this regard, we are partners in the G20, APEC, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and MIKTA.
As societies, we share noteworthy traits.
For example, we have indigenous peoples with heritages stretching back many millennia, and whose legacies and enduring traditions will continue to enrich our nations.
We have become richly multidimensional nation states, celebrating our cultural diversity as a fundamental element of our national identities.
The exciting news is that what we’re witnessing is the earliest chapter of what I am sure will be a much bigger story.
As I’ve already mentioned, our diplomatic relations are now 50 years old.
We’ve been friends for even longer and, during the Second World War, have even been allies.
But our geography, history and mindsets have generally made us distant friends and occasional partners.
Our interests have almost entirely lain elsewhere in the world.
And we’ve accordingly tended to glimpse each other out of the corner of our eyes as we’ve fixated on more immediately accessible partners.
For more than a generation, we’ve both tended to look north, especially towards our respective giant trading partners — and for very sound reasons.
This has served both of us very well, and our interests will continue to lie primarily in those neighbouring regions.
But changing realities have started to reshape our perceptions of each other.
Mexico’s reforms over the last few years have also helped focus Australian business minds on to this country to an unprecedented degree.
The trade and investment promotion part of my embassy is apparently the busiest among all our Latin American posts, and by a large margin.
Australian investment in Mexico now has a cumulative value of $5.3 billion dollars, and the prospects for greater trade and investment flows between us are strong.
Of the 100 or so Australian firms and institutions already in Mexico, 10 of the largest entered the market only in the last two years — and I know many others are seriously looking here.
And just as Australian firms are catching on to the enormous opportunities of supply chains of which Mexico is an integral part, so too are Mexican companies with an eye to the Asian supply chains in which Australia is integral.
The Trans Pacific Partnership, to which both our governments are committed, would add a very significant boost to investment and to our trade relationship.
The ultimate end of tariff restrictions will encourage much greater flows of high-quality goods and services between us, to the great benefit of Australian and Mexican exporters and consumers alike.
Another indication of this acceleration is the rapid rise in Australian visitors to Mexico.
Only ten years ago, fewer than 25,000 airline passengers from both our countries travelled between Australia and Mexico annually.
Nowadays, 80,000 Australians alone visit Mexico annually, and this number is destined to rise.
And last year, I’m reliably informed, an estimated 55,000 people attended a Mexican Independence Day event in Melbourne’s main square – up from a reported 40,000 the previous year.
And since Mexicans living in Australia number only in the low thousands, the vast majority of those celebrating must have been enchanted Australians.
Over 2,000 Mexicans are now joining the more than half a million other foreign students who study in Australia per annum, representing a growth of 90% over the last decade and over 20% since 2013.
So we’re not just catching a glimpse of each other anymore—we’re starting to cast longing looks in the other’s direction.
For those of us charged with the task of encouraging more connections between our countries, these developments in some ways are making our jobs easier.
But the knowledge gaps of each other within our countries, and of the opportunities each presents, is still far too large, so we still have a big job to do.
My priority is to plug this knowledge gap as much as possible, both here and in Australia.
I’m convinced that the facts about each other will persuasively speak for themselves provided enough people, especially those in our respective business communities, receive them.
And Australia’s Senate has also expressed this view loudly and clearly.
Just last December it released a report calling for much stronger economic, political and cultural ties between our countries, noting that
In order for connections to be made, people must know and understand one another. The promotion of Mexican culture in Australia and Australian culture in Mexico through music, food, film, art, and other mediums will raise awareness and stimulate understanding between our two peoples.
Among its major recommendations, it recommended that the Australian Government
actively encourage research collaboration between Australia and Mexico and that more resources be made available to Australian universities and research institutions to facilitate this collaboration.
My Government has reached similar conclusions.
So expect more from me and my embassy on two-way trade and investment promotion.
Expect more promotion of Australian education as well as academic and research exchanges.
Be prepared, too, to see other aspects of Australia represented in this country.
We are planning, for example, a large exhibition on Australia that will be displayed along the Paseo de la Reforma later this year, which I hope you’ll all have a chance to see.
Later this month, the first of several Australian performance artists set to visit Mexico this year will present shows at Cenart.
I’m especially determined to promote Australian science, technology and innovation.
Indeed, just last week I launched an exhibition on Australian innovation and scientific discovery at the embassy – and I invite any of you to look at this around the embassy perimeter next time you’re in Polanco.
The exhibition offers a glimpse into the rich history of Australian innovation.
It is a history that includes such discoveries as penicillin.
The development of the wonder drug that has saved countless lives since the 1940s was the result of an extraordinary collaboration led by perhaps the greatest Australian of all, Howard Florey.
It includes truly ground-breaking, Nobel Prize winning research in such areas as the treatment of cancer, ulcers, and the impact of ageing.
It also includes pioneering work relating to the very beginnings of human life.
Australian researchers in Melbourne engineered the world’s first in vitro fertilisation (IVF) pregnancy in 1973, and 12 of the first 15 IVF babies were born in Australia
It includes such contemporary innovations as Wi-Fi and Google Maps—inventions that we already take for granted and, if my 14-year old daughter is any guide, now couldn’t possibly live without.
It includes the so-called ‘bionic ear’, the Cochlear Implant.
Imagine being born deaf and then, many years on, being able suddenly to hear – to be able to hear your mother’s voice for the first time, or to enjoy the music of Mozart.
That is what’s happened to hundreds of thousands of people thanks in large part to Australian science and innovation.
And the ‘bionic eye’ that would enable the blind to see again is now firmly in Australian researchers’ sights.
It is a history that in some areas is just at the beginning of an incredible future.
For example, an Australian firm, Carnegie Wave Energy, has built and is operating the world’s first commercial-scale wave energy generation project off Western Australia.
But it is also a history that stretches back many thousands of years before the Europeans arrived.
The unique rock art paintings of Australia’s indigenous peoples – the first Australians - constitute the oldest artistic tradition in the world.
This was creativity and innovation at the very dawn of modern humanity.
It is a history that reflects a defining characteristic of Australia that is all too often missed in the common perception – and projection – of Australia as a land of exotic animals, almost boundless natural resources and happy-go-lucky people.
Living in a vast, largely desolate and unpopulated land mass below Asia, Australians have long had to respond cleverly to the challenges our geography and climatic extremes present.
The result is that Australians, in fact, are disproportionately creative, adaptive and innovative.
Indeed, just last year the Global Creativity Index of Canada’s Martin Prosperity Institute rated Australia as the most creative country on the planet.
Regardless of how much store one places in such measures, the key point is that Australian scientists, researchers, engineers, technicians, designers, architects, artists and public policy exponents rank among the best in the world.
And a hunger for discovery and innovation lies at the heart of their successes.
For Australia, as for Mexico, the times demand innovation even more than ever.
As my Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull, said on taking office last September:
‘[W]e have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility in change, is our friend if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it.
And we want to innovate and collaborate more with Mexico as we do so.
It’s something we’ve been doing for a surprisingly long time, and very much to Australia’s benefit as well as Mexico’s.
130 years ago, a man who would go on to become Australia’s second prime minister, Alfred Deakin, drew from a study tour to the US and Mexico to make wide-ranging reforms to the state of Victoria's water resource policy.
It’s somewhat poetic, therefore, to learn that just last week the Mexican Institute of Water Technology and the Victoria-based Deakin University signed an MoU facilitating research and training in the fields of climate change adaptation, rural development and integrated water management.
Australian innovations already touch the lives of Mexicans every day, in some cases literally.
Every time we hand over a 20 or 50 peso note, we are actually passing Australian technology through our fingers.
Those polymer notes aren’t just highly durable.
More important, thanks to the world-leading technology embedded in them, they are virtually impossible to counterfeit.
And those Mexicans who own a Tesla come in direct contact with world-leading Australian technology through a very different part of their bodies.
Tesla selected the Australian company, Futuris, to make its seats – and they are, as you’d expect, not your ordinary car seats.
They are the product of a collaboration involving Australia’s public researcher, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation or CSIRO, and Australia's innovation centre of excellence for the industry, AutoCRC.
And Futuris is making them here, in Mexico.
These are just some examples - and we expect to see many more because the case for collaborating more with Mexico in science, technology and innovation is compelling.
Mexico is emerging rapidly as an innovation hotspot in the Americas.
Global companies have built serious R&D capacity in Mexico.
Mexican cities, such as Monterrey and Guadalajara, have created innovation hubs in partnership with leading global innovation institutions.
These developments, alongside a broader program of economic reform, have been a spur to our education and research sector.
CONACYT and Universities Australia are close to concluding negotiations on an MOU, which will open the way for more research collaborations in addition to those already existing with various Australian universities.
I also understand that the Mexican Government is seriously pursing the idea of building a synchotron.
This would widen yet another avenue of scientific collaboration between us, given Australia’s experience and standing in this field.
My embassy will continue to watch developments on this front with great interest, and stands ready to do all it can to assist in such endeavours.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The future of our collaboration in so many areas is bright.
More and more people now understand this, but that bright future won’t eventuate unless we make it happen.
That process starts with simply understanding each better.
This publication goes some way towards that objective, and I hope tonight I’ve done something towards it as well.
In particular, I hope that next time you’re sitting in a café using wi-fi to access your email while drinking your ‘flat white’ – another Australian invention – which you paid for with a nice crisp 50 peso note, after having driven to the café in your new Tesla with the help of Google Maps, I trust the concept of Australian innovation will spring to mind.
16 February 2016
Taking the lead for Australia United States Business Week (AUSBW)
Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb will lead a business delegation to the United States today to launch the inaugural Australia United States Business Week (AUSBW), a program that will visit six major US cities between 16 and 25 February.
AUSBW 2016 will promote US investment in some of Australia’s key sectors by familiarising US investors with Australia’s capabilities through roundtables, market briefings, site visits and industry summits.
Around 240 Australian companies will take part in AUSBW, which will be held in America’s key commercial centres of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Boston and New York.
“The US is the largest foreign investor in Australia and the source of much of the world’s commercial innovation and new ways of doing business,” Mr Robb said.
“It is also the top destination for Australia’s foreign investment; since the commencement of our free trade agreement with the United States a decade ago, two-way investment has more than doubled to over $1.3 trillion.
“Through AUSBW, we are looking to reinvigorate an already strong relationship. In particular, AUSBW represents an effective platform to inspire US investors with Australia’s new $1.1 billion national innovation agenda,” he said.
In 2014-15, the US was Australia’s second largest two-way trading partner for services and third largest export market. Australian firms exported about AU$20.5 billion in goods and services in that year.
“Australian business people from agribusiness and food science, resources and energy, medical technology, digital technology and tourism will have the opportunity of learning more about the US market, making personal contacts and informing US investors directly about the opportunities in Australia,” Mr Robb said.
Mr Robb said his visit to the US comes just after Australia signed the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, a major new trade pact that will join together 12 economies representing 40 per cent of global GDP into a free trade zone across the Pacific.
“The TPP offers great benefits to the Australian economy in terms of tariff reductions and market access for services, so we are keen to see it ratified by nations such as the US, which after all is the key player in the global economy,” Mr Robb said.
AUSBW is part of the expanded series of Australia Week trade missions and promotional events that were funded in the 2015-16 Federal Budget. It will build on the success of the Australia Week events in China, India and Indonesia.
It is also a key aspect of Australia’s economic and public diplomacy in the United States, which included the G’Day USA promotional program in 2016.
Separate to AUSBW, Mr Robb will lead our first business mission to Havana, Cuba for discussions with local business figures and the Cuban Government about Australia’s capabilities in infrastructure, mining, energy, agriculture and education, as well as healthcare, medical research and tourism.
- Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555