By Andy Sambidge
Aussie business leaders to visit Saudi Arabia, UAE in bid to increase trade and investment
Top business people from Australia are set to visit the Gulf region later on Friday as the country embarks on a mission to increase trade and investment.
The delegation of 12 business leaders from some of Australia's top companies will make its first stop in Saudi Arabia, before going on to Abu Dhabi.
The trip has been organised by The Australia Gulf Council, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to further strengthen the multilateral relationship between Australia and the Gulf states.
The high level delegation arrives in Saudi Arabia on Friday for a five-day visit focused on building greater trade ties in key sectors.
Leading the business mission will be former Australian deputy prime minister Mark Vaile, Anna Bligh, former Queensland Premier and Ahmed Fahour, the Australian Special Envoy to the Organisation of The Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Australia's two-way merchandise trade with Saudi Arabia rose to more than $2bn, with major exports in 2011-12 including passenger motor vehicles, barley, wheat and meat.
Major Australian imports from the Gulf kingdom in 2011-12 included fertilisers and crude petroleum.
Neil Hawkins, Australian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said: "The AGC's mission will have the opportunity to appreciate the sheer scale of significant business opportunities available to Australian companies in Saudi Arabia, which is the largest economy in the Gulf."
It is the third time the AGC has been in the region and this week's visit follows other successful delegations which have been in the region strengthening trade and bilateral relations since 2010.
"Our goal is to continue to develop stronger and sustained linkages across the business and government communities in Australia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE," added Jonathan Herps, CEO of the AGC.
"Over the past two years we have worked hard to nurture mutually beneficial relationships between the Gulf States and Australia through our corporate partners and other commercial, government, non-government and diplomatic stakeholders. Our mission is to build on this further with the GCC countries and facilitate increased two-way trade and investment in these key markets for Australia."
Sectors represented on the business mission by chief and senior executives include automotive, agriculture, construction and engineering, education, financial services, food and beverage, transport, telecommunications and tourism.