Region/Countries: Australia, Australia and New Zealand Industry: Multiple Sectors Date: June 2018

Angela Foley, WEDC's trade representative in Australia

With a highly developed, internationally competitive, advanced market economy, Australia offers excellent opportunities for companies looking to grow globally. Wisconsin’s trade representative for Australia, Angela Foley, offers some insight into creating and executing a successful export strategy in the market.

Q: Why is Australia an attractive export destination for Wisconsin companies?
A: Australia has been an appealing and profitable market for Wisconsin companies for many years. It has an open economy, offering few barriers for entry, familiar legal and corporate frameworks, and a sophisticated yet straightforward business culture. It is the fourth-largest economy in the Asia-Pacific region, and as an English-speaking nation, it offers Wisconsin exporters a springboard for exporting to the region.
Since 2005, Australia has had a free trade agreement with the U.S., which means most exports can enter the Australian market duty-free. This agreement has had a significantly positive impact on the trade and investment relationship between the two countries over the past 13 years.
Q: What are some growth trends in Australia’s economy that are relevant for Wisconsin companies?
A: We see strong opportunities across Australia for Wisconsin exporters, but pending their industry sectors, they need to consider the location of both customers and prospective distributors as they establish in-country supply chains.
Wisconsin exporters of goods and services targeting Australia’s resources sector should note that a large percentage of their customers may be based in Queensland and Western Australia. In these areas, while Wisconsin companies may find it challenging to enter what is already a very competitive local mining and agriculture supply market, there is strong demand for innovative tried-and-tested technologies that can increase operational efficiencies, safety and productivity (e.g., driverless vehicle technology, robotics, process automation, and precision agriculture solutions).
Q: Which specific industries are most relevant for Wisconsin’s exports to Australia?
A: Wisconsin’s key exports to Australia are industrial machinery, transportation equipment, health care and medical technology, scientific instruments and electrical machinery.
Demand for goods and services from Wisconsin is expected to grow further as Australia invests heavily in key infrastructure across industry sectors such as transport (including air, road and rail), wastewater, health care, defense and smart city technologies.
Over the last several decades, Australian manufacturing of high-tech goods, electronics, industrial tools, equipment and machinery has declined to levels where it is a necessity to engage with international suppliers to meet local market demand. As new projects come online and gain momentum, Australian companies are increasingly looking overseas to strengthen supply networks, establish new supply pathways and collaborate on major projects, including smart-city planning and development, wastewater infrastructure construction, hospital construction and outfitting, road and rail construction, and the establishment of Australia’s proposed space agency.
Q: What similarities and differences do you see between the economies of Australia and Wisconsin? What about between the business cultures?
A: Australian business culture is very open and Wisconsin companies will find very few barriers when engaging with the Australian market. However, some key points to note:

  • While it is a common perception that Australians are relaxed and easygoing and this is certainly true of life outside of work, the same is not the case in a business environment. One common issue encountered with companies visiting the Australian market is the expectation that Australian companies will take a meeting as an informal ‘meet and greet’ or as a courtesy. Australian companies will rarely take a meeting unless they have already reviewed an offering and have a clear understanding of what the overseas company is seeking.
  • When requesting a meeting, the Australian counterpart generally expects the company to drive the discussion. For example, provide a meeting agenda including key discussion points, introduce the company, and have an outline of the reason for the meeting.
  • Australians tend to be very direct in meetings. If they understand, like and have an interest in your product, they will let you know. However, if they see challenges, they will be open to discussing how you might overcome the situation to make a future partnership work for both sides. In summary, Australians do not tend to just politely agree to consider your offering and not follow up. You generally leave a meeting knowing exactly where you stand.
  • Punctuality is a given in Australia, but it is by no means a deal-breaker. Often meetings will start 5 to 10 minutes later than anticipated. Australian companies understand that you are traveling in a foreign country and that it certainly takes time to travel to unknown destinations. However, in the event you are running late (or early), a quick courtesy call will go a long way and will not go unnoticed.

Q: How can WEDC help companies break into Australian market?
A: Wisconsin companies that are keen to explore opportunities in Australia can benefit by accessing one of the many business development services offered through WEDC.
Through WEDC’s Global Trade Ventures, companies can break into new markets through sophisticated business matching services. Companies are able to meet with key players including potential partners, end-customers and influencers, explore opportunities for new business development and gain valuable market intelligence.
Through WEDC and its global network of partners, Wisconsin companies have access to global market intelligence including industry, product and market assessment; partner searches; meeting facilitation; and customized projects. Eligible Wisconsin companies can also complete the ExporTech™ Program. Offered by the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity with support from WEDC, ExporTech offers assistance in developing and executing an export strategy.