Jul 2016
Wed, 20 Jul 2016

Keeping the trade doors open

Article by Geoff Culbert
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In my capacity as a Director of the American Chamber of Commerce, I had the pleasure this week to co-host a business roundtable with US Vice President Biden in Sydney, together with Premier Mike Baird and Jennifer Westacott from the BCA. I took the opportunity to talk about the importance of free trade. Here is what I had to say.

Mr Vice President,
As a member of the Board of the American Chamber of Commerce, and as the CEO of GE in Australia, I am delighted to join the Premier and the BCA in welcoming you to Australia.

By way of background, AmCham is the largest foreign business organisation in Australia, with nearly 700 Australian and US companies as members, including GE which has been present in Australia since 1896.

The depth of membership reflects the importance of the Australia/US trade relationship and the fact that one quarter of all foreign investment in Australia comes from the US, and that the US is the leading destination for Australian foreign investment. The primary purpose of AmCham is to promote and maintain this economic relationship at all levels. We have had terrific support for this effort from Ambassador Berry and Consul General Llorens, and their teams.

One of our priorities is ratification of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) both here and in the US. Both AmCham and GE are strong advocates of the benefits of free trade and you only need to look at the success of the US/Australia Free Trade Agreement to understand that. Since its inception 10 years ago two way trade in goods and services has increased by over 70% and the TPP can carry forward that momentum into the future.

Another issue of increasing importance between our two countries is innovation. The spirit of innovation links America and Australia as strongly as our security ties. I chair the AmCham Innovation Committee, and our goal is to give Australian companies and business leaders access to the US market to understand the pace and extent of change happening there and to help accelerate the pace of change in Australia.

Finally, I would note that there is a link between innovation and the TPP, as the architecture of the TPP recognises that the nature of commerce is changing and that business now and in the future will increasingly be conducted digitally and in the cloud, and the provisions of the TPP that manage such things as the free flow of data, e-commerce, intellectual property rights and harmonisation of regulations are critical to ensure we have a modern trade agreement that reflects the realities of global trade today.

Again, welcome Mr Vice President. The floor is now yours.


I had the opportunity to talk to the VP before and after the event. He asked me what was the one thing the US could do to help the Australian economy. I told him that on both sides of the Pacific Ocean we need to keep the trade doors open. I told him that protectionism and anti-globalisation represented significant threats to the Australian economy – given our size and the nature of our industries (mining, oil & gas, agriculture, tourism etc…) the Australian economy does not exist without access to global markets. The trade numbers speak for themselves. Here I am making the point to the VP. We can’t underestimate the importance of this issue – our economic prosperity and thousands of Australian jobs depend on it.

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