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Face to Face with Jane Duke

Posted By AustCham Singapore, Wednesday, 5 July 2017

AustCham Singapore board member Dr Fraser Thompson is President of the newly formed AustCham ASEAN, which was officially launched at our recent lunch with the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia. After the event Fraser caught up with Australia’s Ambassador to ASEAN, Jane Duke, who holds a role which symbolises the importance of the region to Australia’s strategic interests.

How did you come to be Australia’s Ambassador to ASEAN?

This is my third overseas posting for the Australian Government but my first as Ambassador. My last posting was as Deputy High Commissioner in Malaysia and before that I was posted to Australia’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva. On returning from Malaysia to Canberra, I worked on ASEAN issues and wanted to continue to work on South East Asia and on ASEAN. This job was a perfect opportunity and fit. It’s an enormous honour and privilege to pursue Australia’s interests overseas in such a role, after a career in public service in several different agencies.

There’s a lot of momentum about ASEAN at the moment with a number of free trade agreements and partnerships being formed. Can you tell us how important ASEAN is from an Australian Government perspective?

It’s a very high priority. Australia was ASEAN’s first external partner in 1974 and we have extensive cooperation across many sectors. Australia, together with New Zealand, has a Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN, which remains ASEAN’s most comprehensive free trade agreement to date. We have agreed to hold biennial leaders Summits and have elevated our relationship status to a Strategic Partner, which makes us one of ASEAN’s top tier partners along with others like the United States of America, China, and Japan. ASEAN is more important than ever for Australia’s security and prosperity, as we’ve just heard from Prime Minister Turnbull in his keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue. That’s why he’s invited all ten ASEAN leaders to Australia for the ASEAN – Australia Special Summit which will be held in March 2018 in Sydney.

That Special Summit is obviously a big occasion, as Summits are rarely held outside of ASEAN. Can you tell us a little bit more about that. What are the objectives and what can we hope to see emerge?

The primary objective is to take our engagement with ASEAN to a higher and deeper level by looking at ways that we can further our cooperation on security and economic matters. We want to reinforce Australia’s relations with ASEAN as an enduring, engaged and constructive strategic partner. Of course, the central component of the Summit will be the dialogue between the leaders from each ASEAN Member States and Australia’s Prime Minister, but there will also be two major side events in the margins of the leader’s dialogue. One is a business forum with two components, a CEO-level forum and an SME forum – in recognition that so much of the growth in ASEAN has been in the SME trade and investment space. The second major side event will be a Counter-Terrorism Conference, given terrorism is a shared concern across Australia and the ASEAN Member States. Running through the whole summit are the two themes of partnership for security and prosperity.

What are your goals for your time as Ambassador?

I would like to see ASEAN view Australia as a partner of choice and for ASEAN and Australia to continue to work together on our shared interests across the spectrum. I’d like to deepen our cooperation in key fields like security and in our economic partnership. I’d like to promote the very important people-to-people links that we share that differentiates Australia from many of ASEAN’s other partners. Our close ties have been fostered throughout our history through education links, dating back decades to the Colombo Plan. Education exchanges have helped successive generations develop life-long connections between our nations. Enhancing these close people links through scholarship programs including the New Colombo Plan, helps to engage a new generation of young leaders with a better understanding of the region in which we live.

From a business perspective, what do you think are some of the biggest opportunities for Australian business in the region?

I think there are a lot of opportunities for Australian businesses to meet ASEAN’s primary growth drivers. We all know the trends of ASEAN’s enormous population, with the growing middle class and rapid urbanisation. I believe Australia’s skills and natural resources are well placed to meet those needs. Whether that’s in infrastructure, resources, financial services, health care, logistics or education…. I think we have a lot of opportunities right on our doorstep with this market that is diverse in its individual components but collectively presents so much opportunity.

Have you seen a change in the way Australian business views ASEAN?

There are a lot of iconic Australian companies that have invested in ASEAN and have strong regional strategies. We just saw at the event today hosted by AustCham Singapore a number of representatives from important companies like BlueScope, Telstra, Qantas and ANZ, that have invested in the region and see the opportunities here. I think there’s room to share these success stories and the experiences of working in the region and how to do it. There is a perception in the Australian community that it’s hard to operate in the region and a tendency to focus on bigger markets in Asia like China. But if due diligence is done and the right business partner and strategy chosen, it is worth a close look. I hope that if more stories are shared of success, and lesson learned, it might encourage other Australian businesses to look carefully at the opportunities in the region.

You travel a lot and work long hours, so when you’re outside of work and have some free time how do you like to enjoy yourself?

I enjoy spending time with my family and all the great things that South East Asia has to offer like the diversity of food, people and geography and all the fantastic tourism locations. For example, we went snorkelling in the Komodo islands recently with our kids, and also saw the Komodo dragons, a real “bucket list” experience.

- Interview published in Access Asia Magazine Jun/Jul 2017 issue.

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AustCham Connects You Across Asia

Posted By AustCham Singapore, Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Singapore is a hub for the South East Asian region, and while many companies chose to have their regional headquarters here we recognise that people often have to travel.

That’s why, as an AustCham Singapore member, across a network of Australian chambers of commerce and business councils you will receive reciprocal membership benefits.

If you are travelling to any of these countries:

·         Australia

·         Beijing

·         Cambodia

·         Hong Kong and Macau

·         Indonesia

·         Japan

·         Korea

·         Laos

·         Malaysia

·         Philippines

·         Shanghai

·         Singapore

·         South China, Guangzhou

·         Taipei

·         Thailand

·         Vietnam

AustCham Singapore can connect you with the relevant business chamber and they will offer you member rates for up to three events a year. So next time you are travelling for work, why not let us know so we can put you in touch with the local Australian business community and help further your connections in the region.

AustCham Singapore also offers support for our corporate members applying for APEC Business Travel Cards. The APEC Business Travel Card scheme is designed to facilitate the travel of business people between APEC economies. The card is a multiple-journey-visa where cardholders enjoy visa free entry and expedited immigration clearance through designated lanes at most major airports in participating countries. We can assist our corporate members in the provision of a letter of support which the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection has confirmed as supporting documentation when demonstrating business trade and or investment activities in the region. This can assist start-up operations to validate their business operations, and strengthening the application for existing companies.

Contact us if you would like more information on a letter of support, and for further details about the APEC Business Travel Card visit:

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ASEAN Business Outlook

Posted By AustCham Singapore, Monday, 12 September 2016


The ASEAN is at risk of a more protracted and enduring slowdown. The persistence of lacklustre final demand in the high-income economies, the ongoing slowdown in China, and the rise or protectionist policies in some economies all point to a region where economic risks, with few exceptions, are skewing to the downside.

The key risk remains an incredibly lacklustre global trade environment. The persistence and depth of the regional trade recession looks to be as equally characterised by its enduringness posing the risk that the trade recession ultimately morphs into domestic slowdowns and/or recessions via income channels. The economies we would view as most vulnerable to this dynamic are Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The Philippines stands out as relatively immune given its very strong services sector and the fact that global growth does appear to have a services bias at present.

The risk of an on-going slowdown centres on how open the ASEAN economies are and the size of trade relative to their GDP. An ongoing trade recession will thus represent an unprecedented drag on export growth (and import growth) of near crisis proportions for an extended period of time. A myriad of causal and associated risks thus present themselves around this outlook.

The end-game appears to be an increasingly heterogeneous ASEAN. Indonesia for example has a relatively low trade exposure, but that trade exposure is predominantly in undiversi ed commodities and is acutely affected by the China slowdown.

But will the domestic sector be insulated from an ongoing trade recession?

The transmission mechanism of a trade recession to a domestic recession is likely to be via the corporate sector – mainly the non- nancial sector, though the nancial sector may prove to exacerbate these effects via nancial accelerator effects.

Medium-term anchors, such as the commencement of the ASEAN Economic Community and the introduction of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) should see investment and infrastructure begin to ourish. Currency depreciation is proving to be insulating for domestic income and some ASEAN economies are displaying nimbleness by evolving into what appears to be a more services-oriented economy and the new global services supply chain environment that is developing alongside that.

Since peaking in 2010-11, Asian trade volumes and industrial production have generally been following the loss of G3 momentum in a linear fashion. Based on ANZ’s latest forecasts for the G3 and China, that trend looks set to continue. This would seem to suggest that a purely cyclical explanation for the trade recession would be sufficient.

The varying degrees of exposure of the ASEAN economies to the G3 economies means that the trade slowdown is not felt evenly. A second factor which increases heterogeneity in Asia is the adjustment to lower commodity prices over the medium term. Commodity exporters, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, were particularly punished by this dynamic in 2015, whereas the largest commodity exporters (as a % of trade) such as the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand bene tted.

This dynamic is perhaps most apparent in the import gures where the price de ating impact of falling commodity prices make themselves apparent.

Conclusion: ASEAN risks from an extended slowdown becoming more apparent.

One of the most important economic revelations of 2015 was that the Asian trade recession is the result of not only weak nal demand but also what could be a structural break in the historical relationship between global income growth and trade growth. That is, the global trade multiplier seems unusually repressed at this time. If this dynamic were to continue then the exporting and production platforms that many ASEAN economies are built upon start to look excessive and the prospect of an extended slowdown in the ASEAN becomes all the more real. 

Author : Glenn Maguire Chief Economist, Asia Pacific ANZ


Read on ASEAN insights for Australian business in our Access Asia magazine Jun/July issue.


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Australian Business in ASEAN Survey 2016

Posted By AustCham Singapore, Wednesday, 17 August 2016
Updated: Tuesday, 16 August 2016
A comprehensive survey of the views of the Australian business community across the ASEAN region.

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The Do's & Don'ts of Networking

Posted By AustCham Singapore, Wednesday, 15 June 2016
Updated: Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Networking events can present great opportunity but can also be a minefield of potential mistakes and embarrassing faux pas. Many regular attendees to networking events will have a story or two about finding themselves in a sales pitch or in a one sided conversation about the other person. So how do you walk that fine line between being confident and meeting new people, and being remembered for the wrong reasons?

Annette Tilbrook has been Executive Director of AustCham for 8 years hosting well over 250 networking events and she’s seen what makes an impression, be it good or bad. “Networking events are a core part of the calendar for the Chamber, and the most impressive and successful networkers I’ve seen are the people who read a room well. They look for someone they recognise or pick an appropriate opportunity to move into a group. How you start a conversation is also very important, successful networkers ask questions about the other person rather than jumping into a sales pitch about themselves. If you start the event with the attitude that you want to meet people who are interesting to know, it can lead to many good relationships.

Handing out sales material or being too overt about trying to promote yourself is just not a good way to network at our events, people don’t respond well to it at all. If I see someone who looks like they are doing this I try and introduce myself, have a bit of a chat about why they are here and what they are looking to gain, and gently let them know that this is just not how our events work.”

Overseeing events gives a different perspective to people who are taking part, so what do people who regularly get approached at networking functions think makes a good impression?

Ian Macdonald, President of Hong Leong Finance Ltd said one of the most important things to do at these events is not to gravitate to friends and people you already know well. “Make sure that you do meet new people. It is easy to spend time with friends and acquaintances and miss the opportunity of adding to your network of contacts,” he said.

“I think that an important thing to do when you meet people at these functions is to discuss positive things, be humourous and ask questions. In my experience people definitely respond much better to positive or humorous exchanges and are open to dialogue where you ask questions about the person you are chatting with.”

Ian said his biggest bugbear is people that want to sell you something in the first sentence. “This is people who are only interested in selling you something and those who only want to talk about themselves and what they are doing. It shows they do not have any interest in you and your views or line of business.”

Andrew O’Brien, General Manager, Southeast Asia, India, Middleeast and Africa with Treasury Wine Estates said for him the people who leave a lasting impression have a positive and open demeanour. “It’s really annoying when someone is talking to you but they keep looking around the room to see if there are any other ‘important’ people there. Similarly people who are enthusiastic in talking to you up to the point where they deem you aren’t ‘useful’ to them, because you’re not in the same industry or not who they consider important. It impresses me when someone greets with you a firm handshake and looks you directly in the eyes, someone with a limp, disinterested handshake - whether male or female - is very off-putting.”

Andrew said people who leave a good impression are people that are genuinely interested in you and what you do, and ask pertinent questions. “Approaching people with sincerity and making sure you’re present in the moment is really important,” he said. “You never know how the person you meet will have an impact on your life – so never be dismissive of anyone and be genuinely interested in the people you talk to, even if they are not from your industry. They may likely know someone who is - the world we live in is very small after all!”

Recommended Reading: 6 reasons to join a business chamber

To learn about the benefits of membership to AustCham, click here

To check out our upcoming events, click here

Tags:  austcham  hong leong  networking  tips  treasury wine estates 

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