Newsletter 04/2021

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Moin Anwar - New South Wales Government

Moin Anwar, Trade and Investment Commissioner (Middle East) at New South Wales Government,shares some fascinating and useful insights into the trade relationships between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and New South Wales (NSW) – past, present and future

The UAE is a natural hub in the region – its geographical position has helped it become a vitally important trade and transportation hub.  As the country has a transient population, we see many people coming and then moving to other places.  Many of us have set up home here with the intention of staying for maybe just a few months or years and never get the chance to put down any roots.  Then there are ‘long termers’ like me, who’ve been around for ages – I’ve lived here for 27 years, arriving in 1994 after completing my higher studies in the UK.  Always happy to share my experiences for the benefit of others.  

After working for six years in the private sector, I joined the Australian Consulate General / Australian Trade Commission in Dubai, which then brought about the opportunity to join the Government of Dubai, Dubai Exports, as Director Exporter Services. With seventeen years in Dubai under my belt, I took up my current position as NSW’s Trade and Investment Commissioner (Middle East) in Abu Dhabi in 2011 – a role my extensive in-market experience with private and government sectors covering multiple regions had really prepared me.

Not long after I made that move, Dubai won the rights to host Expo 2020 – undoubtedly a huge opportunity for NSW, and indeed the rest of Australia, to radically boost existing commercial and cultural ties with the UAE and other countries. The collective disappointment we all felt when this groundbreaking event had to be postponed an entire year because of the COVID-19 pandemic was palpable but the delay was absolutely necessary and for the greater good. With the Australian Pavilion now complete and ready to host visitors from all over the world, that collective disappointment has turned into eager anticipation as we wait for Expo 2020 Dubai to finally open its gates later this year.

Before we discuss the Expo, though, we cannot ignore the colossal impact that the pandemic has had across practically any sector you’d care to mention. Nobody alive can say they’ve not been affected in one way or another and trade has been hit particularly hard all around the world. However, we’ve been more fortunate than most thanks to the Australian Government's foresight, decisive action and support. For instance, through the International Freight Assistance Mechanism, many NSW exporters were able to maintain supplies to the UAE, thus supporting the country's food security objectives. 

This has proven our reliability when it comes ensuring safe and competitive food supplies and I’m certain this positive experience will further strengthen our trade ties and open new investment opportunities. Current travel restrictions and the strengthening of the Australian Dollar do present some challenges but these can be overcome by our superior product capabilities and flexibility when it comes to meeting customer requirements.   

And while we’ve all felt some degree of impact from the pandemic, we’ve learned valuable lessons, too – the most important, to my mind anyway, being the need to remain connected.  We all are facing immense challenges as the business landscape has changed and continues to evolve. With travel restrictions, in-person meetings have been difficult, if not impossible to organise, yet technology platforms have massively helped us to overcome this. We might have reached the point at which even the mention of ‘Zoom’ or ‘Teams’ causes us to involuntarily roll our eyes but this software has allowed companies to build on their in-region connections and continue business, while many others have entered or are entering the region. Being connected with your customers, coupled with flexibility, has been the secret to success.    

While conditions got tougher than anyone had expected, we continued our in-market engagement and focused on the future.  This has helped us to broaden our horizons in relation to trade with the UAE. We have seen, for instance, growing interest in attracting technology into the country, which supports the UAE's objectives to be more self-reliant in case of challenging scenarios. NSW has available innovative technologies to support this demand and we are having conversations spanning food production, healthcare, security and other sectors. It’s worth pointing out, too, that to support the adaptation of this technology there will be a requirement for human capital development.

Just like the UAE, Australia has handled the monumental challenges associated with the pandemic incredibly well, and the interest in investing in NSW continues to grow stronger while investment from the UAE in renewable energy, intermodals, hospitality projects and the technology sector remains robust.

We have also been very successful in attracting investments from the UAE into our ports, roads, hospitality and electricity assets over the past decade, which highlights the strengths of NSW an investment destination. Trade continues to be exciting and we have supported the entry of quality NSW food and personal care exporters into the UAE market, with new entrants including Brookfarm, Woolworths, Lovekins, Wid Bee and others. 

Returning to Expo 2020 Dubai for a moment, the NSW plan is to leverage the six-month long event to promote our industries and innovations to a global audience but there’s no denying that the strong interest we see from the UAE has re-energised us somewhat after last year’s postponement. We see strong opportunities for NSW establishments in food and agtech, health and medtech, education and training, and tourism to benefit from the enhanced global engagement. Providing them the opportunity to showcase their capabilities at an international level will support their growth aspirations and add to the economic strengths of NSW.     

The NSW Government recently established Investment NSW, a one-stop-shop to partner with business, attract investment and grow jobs in NSW. Investment NSW takes advantage of NSW’s successful handling of the pandemic and reinforces NSW’s global position as a safe and attractive place to do business. With laser-like focus, this is where the best of industry, innovation, trade and tourism and major events meet to grow investment and jobs in NSW - its roadmap to grow world-leading industries, create great places to live and work, and connect NSW to the world.  Under this strategy, we are assisting NSW companies to export to international markets and at the same time work with international organisations that are keen to invest in NSW to benefit from a fantastic ecosystem and tap into the state’s world-class talent pool. Projects like the Western Sydney Aerotropolis and various precincts (Tech Central in Sydney, for example) announced by the NSW Government will offer excellent opportunities to investors and, to support the Investment NSW rollout.  Our international offices will grow in number from eleven to twenty-one, covering the entire globe.

I’m sure you’ll join with me in feeling incredibly optimistic about the future, whether it’s related to Expo 2020 Dubai, the removal of travel restrictions or the burgeoning opportunities that undoubtedly exist for diverse trade and investment between NSW and the UAE. Both are incredibly dynamic, open to new possibilities and ways of doing things for the betterment of the global society. Personally I cannot wait to see how things will develop – having spent the best part of three decades living and working in this inspirational country gives me good reason for cheer.

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