How Team Australia can succeed in Asia

07 April 2021


  • COVID-19 pandemic and complexity in Australia-China relations provides rationale for greater economic engagement with Asia
  • Diversifying our trade partnerships is now an economic and geostrategic necessity and priority should be given to building stronger business connectivity with Japan, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Korea and India
  • But diversification for Australia means China and rather than China or
  • Australian business must be bold and play to its strengths or the significant opportunities in Asia will be lost
  • Report makes 24 recommendations to build successful businesses in Asia including through championing Asian-Australian diaspora talent and rebooting Asia literacy

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan today launched Asia Taskforce’s final report A Second Chance: How Team Australia can succeed in Asia.

The report, a joint project by the Asia Society and Business Council’s Asia Taskforce, with knowledge partners PwC Australia and the University of Sydney Business School, provides a blueprint for Australia to successfully compete in the region.

In response to the challenges Australia faces as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic and in our relations with China, the Asia Taskforce makes 24 recommendations for business, academia and government under a “Team Australia’’ approach.

Mr Tehan said business and government needed to work together in order to keep trade with Asia moving.

“Importantly, the Asia Taskforce does more than make the argument that businesses should expand into diverse markets across Asia,’’ Mr Tehan said.

‘’It advocates a ‘Team Australia’ approach, and identifies practical, specific actions that business and governments can take to strengthen the presence of Australia, and our businesses, in Asia.’’

With China at the forefront, Asia is emerging from the pandemic as the economic powerhouse of the world, but Australia risks losing trade and investment opportunities for the future in Asia if we don’t act now.

The report proposes focussing on markets and sectors where Australia has competitive advantages, such as healthcare in Indonesia and financial services in Japan, as well as India, Viet Nam and Korea. However, the report finds diversification cannot replace the need to adjust to and work with today’s more complex relationship with China.

Taskforce Chairman and Compass Group Asia Pacific Regional Managing Director Mark van Dyck said:

“The Taskforce’s aim was to provide a set of ideas and practical recommendations for Australian companies of all sizes to build sustainable and successful businesses in Asia.

“We looked at what successful companies do well for practical first steps on designing and executing Asia strategies, drawing on companies such as Cochlear, ResMed, Treasury Wine Estates, Lendlease and a2 Milk.

“Their experience shows understanding country-specific business practices, managing relationships and empowering local talent are key success factors.’’

Asia Society Australia chief executive officer Philipp Ivanov said:

‘’Today, Asia accounts for 40 per cent of global GDP and the region is likely to fare better than most developed economies as the world recovers from the pandemic.

“We need shift our attitudes and see Asia as more than just an export market, but a series of diverse markets that offer great opportunities on the ground.’’

“Australia is exceptionally well positioned to expand trade and investment partnerships in the region, however we need to play to our competitive strengths.

‘’We must improve our Asia literacy, make better use of our rich Asian-Australia diaspora, adjust our policies to remove barriers and encourage innovation.’’

Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott AO said:

“The rise of Asian economies on our doorstop and their growing middle classes are our chance to secure a stronger future with faster growth and more opportunities for Australians, but only if we grasp the opportunity.

“Seizing this moment will mean taking a ‘Team Australia’ approach. Businesses will have to act boldly and as a nation we’ll need to focus on better co-ordination, driving our global competitiveness and pushing hard to exploit our existing comparative advantages and developing new ones.

“If we succeed, Australians will have the best standards of living in the world but if we fail, we run the risk of becoming a second order economy in a thriving region.”

PwC Australia Asia Practice Leader Andrew Parker said:

“Asia is different and the operating environment is not straight-forward and the opportunities are not risk-free. But we’ve shown that managing that risk in Asia is possible.

‘’Australia has done relatively well during the pandemic but if we don’t move fast to capitalise on our advantage, our competitors will, and we risk letting the opportunities in Asia pass us by.’’

Download the report here


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