Jun 2017
Tue, 13 Jun 2017

CEO Message June 2017

Article by Niels Marquardt
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AmCham members all probably know about our great networking events and frequent trade missions.  But how many really follow the important advocacy work we lead?  I want to dedicate this message to that issue, because I think many people will be surprised and, I hope, encouraged to know how often we go to bat for the AmCham community on many important issues that affect us all.

Let me start with the absolute furore that arose after the announcement in April that Australia’s long-standing 457 visa program is being revised.  I have never seen an issue so galvanise our community!  It came up at our May AGM, and was a major topic at our last Board meeting.  Members were clearly demanding that AmCham engage.  And so we did.  Click here for the letter we sent to Canberra officials after we first worked with the French Chamber (FACCI) to survey our members about the importance of the issue.  And today, I and many of our Board members are in Canberra again to follow up with a clear statement of how much a flexible skilled migration program matters to all those who might invest here.  We’ll see Ministers and their staffs, and continue our great dialogue with the US Embassy on this and so many other business-related issues.  Please know that we will continue to freely offer our insights to the government as the program evolves into the future – including making sure that the periodic revisions of included occupation category lists reflect the reality we all know here.

Tax is another important determinant of the quality of the investment climate here, and everywhere.  AmCham has a robust Taxation Committee, ably led by PwC Partner Chris Morris.  We were in Canberra for a full day in March to remind policymakers that their decisions on tax will help shape decisions on where multinationals invest.  We want Australia to remain a highly attractive destination for foreign investment. But we worry, frankly, that the wind in Canberra may be blowing in the wrong direction. While other jurisdictions, notably the US and UK, are talking – and acting – to make their corporate tax structures ever more competitive, Canberra gradually is acquiring a dubious international reputation for giving foreign investors a tepid welcome. This trajectory cannot continue long before we will start seeing multinational investment decisions go to other jurisdictions that seem more welcoming.  (And combining unilateral tax assertiveness with the 457 changes makes for a particularly discouraging message to would-be foreign investors.)

Our focus on maintaining an attractive climate for foreign investment in Australia – namely because of all the benefits it continues to bring here in terms of jobs, R&D and innovation – has also motivated the major study we have done in conjunction with the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, looking at the role and contributions of two-way investment between the US and Australia. I am thrilled to announce that the study will be completed next month, and we will be going on a roadshow across the country in August to share the findings with all of you. Stay tuned for more on how to be part of these launch events.

Meanwhile this Friday, I and a group of seven AmCham members will fly to Washington DC to lobby the Trump Administration and US Congress for changes we hope to see there, notably on tax. AmCham is already the key voice from Australia advocating for a modernisation of the bilateral tax treaty to eliminate unfair practices like taxing Aussie superannuation. But the greater opportunity – and one that would also end the taxing of super – lies in the tax reform debate now heating up on Capitol Hill.  We will join other regional AmChams to lobby for a territorial tax system to replace the current American approach taxing global income.  In all the horse-trading to come, it is critical that the loud voice of international business be heard clearly calling for a territorial approach. AmCham will make sure that happens.

AmChams from across the region will also lay down a strong marker in Washington that the Asia-Pacific is continuing its forward march toward freer trade, with or without the United States.  The new USTR, Robert Lighthizer, is now confirmed and just made his first trip to the region.  In Vietnam last week, he heard loudly and clearly about regional disappointment in the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as a positive message of welcome to the US whenever they might decide to revisit that decision. Perhaps a “decent interval” must pass first, but we all know that the issues that drove the TPP – the digital economy, IP protection, competition with state-owned enterprises, rules of origin for complex global supply chains, and more – still need to be addressed with agreed multilateral rules of the road.  Recall that AmChams eight years ago were at the forefront of reminding a recalcitrant, new Obama Administration that they would neglect economic engagement with Asia at their peril!  We slowly convinced them, just as we hope to eventually prevail with the Trump Administration.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the recently launched 55th Australian Export Awards, co-presented by Austrade and ACCI. Please click here to learn more about how to apply.


Infrastructure Mission with Austrade – 9-13 October

Defence & Aerospace Mission – 15-20 October

Innovation Mission – 29 October – 3 November


Adelaide – Innovators to Entrepreneurs Changemakers Series (panel event) – June 22

Brisbane – Travel, Tourism and Trade with the USA (panel event) – July 7

Melbourne – Melbourne Innovation Mission – July 18

Sydney – BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy – July 18

Panel on Robots, Agriculture and the Australian Economy w/ Sydney Uni – July 26

Perth – Nicola Forrest, CEO, Minderoo Foundation – June 21

Dr Philip Lowe, RBA Governor – Sept 21



Since my last message, we are pleased to welcome the following new members on board: King & Wood Mallesons, Pelican Products, Tenant CS, Slidemaster, Bechtel Australia, Remote Research Ranges, Subsea 7 Australia Contracting and ReRiskPlease view our newest members here. If you are not already a member of AmCham, now is the time to join and increase your access to opportunity for 2017.


Until next time, Niels Marquardt
nielsmarquardt@amcham.com.auFollow me on twitter: @CEO_AmChamAU 

P.S. If you would like to increase your access to opportunities, information and services of the Chamber, please select this link and AmCham will send you more updates with information about upcoming events, programmes and initiatives in your state.

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