Article – Team Australia lines up behind Robb

30 May 2014
Rowan Callick

Trade Minister Andrew Robb has established Australia’s first trade and investment council comprising top-level corporate advisers to the federal government — underlining, he said, its different way of doing business from its Labor predecessor.

The Trade and Investment Policy Advisory Council will provide Mr Robb, and the government through him, with a corporate perspective to comple­ment the traditional public-service sources of advice.
Mr Robb said the group would add “considerable horsepower” to the government’s efforts to increase growth and productivity.
It will offer business expertise both at regular meetings and when issues arise, such as over free-trade agreement strategies.
The council is to have 20 members, who will hold their first formal meeting with the Trade and Investment Minister at Parliament House in Canberra next Friday.
They are: co-chairman of Village Roadshow Graham Burke; chief executive of Macquarie Bank Asia Alex Harvey; executive director of the Just Group Colette Garnsey; Santos chief executive David Knox; managing director of Chevron Australia Roy Krywosinski; group managing director of Coca-Cola Amatil Alison Watkins; executive chairman of Mitsui Australia Yasushi Takahashi; chairman of the Longreach Group Mark Chiba; Crown chief executive Rowen Craigie; managing dir­ector of Alchemy Growth Part­ners Mehrdad Baghai; leading China-focused lawyer Robin Chambers; managing director of Wellard Group Holdings Mauro Balzarini; founder of Pacific Road Capital Management Paul Espie; chief executive of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training Claire Field; vice-chancellor of James Cook University Sandra Harding; chairman of Eller­ston Capital Ashok Jacob; chief financial officer of Bupa Australia Joy Linton; founder of Parkthorn Tourism and Leisure Peter O’Brien; managing director of Cargill Australia Philippa Pur­ser; and chairman of Mering Corp Jason Yeap.
Their expertise, Mr Robb said, “spans Australia’s key trade and investment interests”, including resources, food and agribusiness, textiles, tourism, international education, finance and banking.
He said they would bring “a very high-quality commercial perspective to everything we do”.
The next big agenda items looming large for Mr Robb are the free-trade deal with China and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, both now at crucial stages.
At its first meeting, the council’s discussions will include domestic constraints and barriers to market access for Australian exporters; growth markets for key sectors; attracting sovereign and private funds, both national and global, to invest in Australia; managing investment by state-owned enterprises; and the government’s deregulation agenda.
The advisers will also consider Mr Robb’s plans for the development of northern Australia, including transforming the region into a food bowl for Asia.
This new Team Australia approach, Mr Robb said, would bring unique insight and expertise across all the areas that the government sees as key national strengths, “which we are determined to leverage to help drive sustainable growth”.
The initiative to establish the council responds in part to criticism from business that the full potential of trade and investment opportunities from new deals will not be realised unless the commercial imperatives are taken more clearly into account.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in a letter to Mr Robb last month: “Poorly drafted administrative arrangements can negate the years of negotiations and liberalisation on offer if they result in a commercially unusable agreement.”
Bill Carmichael, ex-chairman of the Industries Assistance Commission, expressed in a commentary in The Australian this week his concern that “Tony Abbott’s approach to trade policy has effectively placed it in the hands of trade officials”. Mr Robb’s initiative takes that approach in a new direction.
Courtesy of The Australian