Consul and Senior Trade Commissioner Sarah Quigley took up her posting in Australia in January 2020, just as the first COVID-19 cases emerged in Australia. She relocated first to Canberra and then Sydney from Vancouver, with her New Zealand-born husband and two young children. Despite arriving in Australia during a difficult time, Ms Quigley said she loved the beauty of the country and the attitude of the people.
“I obviously came to Australia at a challenging time, amidst the bushfires and then COVID-19, and I quickly gained an understanding of the resilience and fortitude of Australians, qualities which are shared by Canadians.”
As Senior Trade Commissioner, her role is to lead the trade team in Australia and advise on matters of trade promotion and investment to help Canadian businesses grow in Australia by connecting them with funding, support and opportunities. Conversely, she helps Australian businesses invest and expand in Canada. The trade team consists of 14 trade commissioners and trade commissioner assistants across Australia.
“We help businesses export abroad by providing them information on the sector, product or service in Australia they are involved in,” Ms Quigley said. “We provide practical exporting assistance to businesses, helping them get their product from point A to point B. We also support businesses through programs like CanExport, which provides financial assistance to businesses looking to break into new markets.”
“We provide problem solving assistance in helping businesses assess their potential or provide business contacts here in Australia.”
“Another important service we provide is market access, so if businesses are having trouble in a particular sector, for example, navigating a regulatory issue, we work with these businesses to help represent their needs.”
She said being a Senior Trade Commissioner was incredibly interesting and rewarding. “The best part about the role is meeting with Canadian companies. It’s so exciting to see what these companies have accomplished so far from home; it makes me proud to be a Canadian. “It’s also great to meet the Australian businesses and to see the breadth and collaboration between Canadian and Australian companies.”
She said trade agreements in both Australia and Canada allowed for severely reduced tariffs, creating enormous opportunities for businesses. “There is a real ease in doing business between Australia and Canada, there are so many similarities between the two countries.” Ms Quigley said one of the biggest challenges for Canadian businesses expanding into Australia was the competition.
“Competition is one of the biggest risks for businesses moving into the Australian market. Australian companies also have ready access to low-cost regional producers, which is perhaps underestimated by Canadian businesses coming into the Australian market.”
When talking about growth areas, she said there were still plenty of opportunities for Canadian businesses looking to expand to Australia. “Infrastructure is a real growth sector in Australia and there is enormous opportunity for Canadian businesses to be a part of that. Renewables are another sector where opportunities exist, with an emphasis on solar and wind. The other growth area is digital, including artificial intelligence and robotics but also links into many other sectors more broadly, such as agri-business and mining tech.”
Ms Quigley acknowledged that while the pandemic has been challenging for some businesses, it has opened up new opportunities for others. “I think there will be legacies from COVID that we will keep, particularly in the digital sector. What businesses need to be looking at, is whether the new way of doing business has improved things. Have these changes added revenue, lowered cost, improved experiences? We need to pay attention to that technical transformation brought about by COVID-19 and assess the opportunities it presents.”
Her message to businesses was to take advantage of the support on offer.
“Canada is open for business. The Trade Commissioner Service is here to help Canadian businesses exporting to Australia. As is the rest of Team Canada: Export Development Canada, Invest in Canada and others such as provincial and territorial partners. We also work closely with our local counterparts Austrade, Supply Nation and business associations such as the Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council of Canada.
The Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce (CACC) is a non-profit, volunteer based organisation that aims to bring businesses together to facilitate a strong environment for economic trade and investment between Canada and Australia.
Written by Samantha Robin
CACC Member Engagement Committee