Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
One of my responsibilities over the past three years has been to leverage my German-speaking background to help us broaden, deepen and strengthen our bilateral relationship with Germany.
Continuing to strengthen our bilateral relationship with Germany is very much in Australia's interest.
We are like-minded on international issues and share many core values.
Germany is also the fourth-biggest economy in the world and the largest economy in the European Union. It is a substantial European political power. We hope to successfully conclude a free-trade agreement with the European Union in the not-too-distant future. Importantly, the European Union as a block remains our second-largest trading partner and our largest source of foreign direct investment.
Through the Australia-Germany Advisory Group we took stock of our bilateral relationship and developed 59 practical recommendations on how we could boost our trade and investment relationship, our strategic engagement, our co-operation on research, science and innovation, people-to-people links and much more.
Since then we have progressively implemented those recommendations.
For example with the inauguration of regular 2+2 foreign and defence ministers' meetings in Berlin late last year and the 1.5 track strategic dialogue, together with an officials-level Asia dialogue, which have all supported a new level of strategic engagement between our governments and public policy leaders.
We were able to negotiate in record time a new modern double taxation agreement designed to facilitate increased trade and investment flows between our two countries.
Germany has strongly committed to support our bid for a freetrade agreement with Europe.
We have established the Prime Minister's Industry 4.0 Taskforce to enhance collaboration between Australian and German industry leaders in setting global standards for the next phase of advanced manufacturing.
We have launched an Innovation Landing Pad in Berlin - a place where Australia's best and brightest entrepreneurs can develop ideas and forge networks bolstering business links and opportunities.
Through the Australia-Germany Advisory Group we also committed to hosting a major regional conference in Perth in November this year - to bring together business and government leaders from Germany, Australia and the Asia Pacific.
This Asia Pacific Regional Conference broadly mirrors a regular biannual event organised by the three major German business associations in different locations across our broader region. The most recent such conference in Hong Kong attracted more than 1000 German business delegates, as well as government and business representatives from across the broader Asia Pacific region.
The Perth conference will be the largest ever gathering of German and Australian business and political leaders, to explore future opportunities for business, trade and investment between our two countries as well as together in the Asia-Pacific region.
The conference will provide a platform for up to 1000 Australian and German company representatives from small and mediumsized to big businesses, to develop tangible business opportunities during a two-day program.
Sector experts and senior business and government leaders will explore the future opportunities in areas such as mining and resources, Industry 4.0, energy, health technologies, defence industries and how Australia acts as a premier business gateway for the AsiaPacific region.
And it is another major contribution to developing a broader, stronger and deeper bilateral relationship between Australia and Germany, not only boosting bilateral trade and investment, but also to position us as a valued bridge to the broader Asia Pacific.
Our trade with Germany has been growing, but there is opportunity to do more. Last year, Australian year-on-year merchandise exports to Germany grew by almost 30 per cent, while merchandise imports from Germany grew by about 11 per cent. Our service exports to Germany also grew by almost 15 per cent over that same period.
We encourage all Australian businesspeople doing business with German companies or those interested in pursuing future opportunities to come along.
Mathias Cormann is the federal Minister for Finance and cochairman of the Australia Germany Advisory Group. The German-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's 2017 Asia-Pacific Regional Conference takes place in Perth from November 3 (www.aprcperth2017.com).
This is an opinion piece published in The Australian on 24 July 2017.
Karen Wu - 0428 350 139