Ivano Casella (centre), Jason Collins (right), and Paul Koenig (left)

Mark Stariha Treasurer of Slovenian Australian Chamber of Commerce and Jana Grilc, First Secretary Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Canberra Last Thursday Jana and I attended the EABC Trade Clinic for EU Economic and Commercial Counsellors + European Chambers representatives at NSW Parliament house.

Jana full day.

An interesting day with much talk about the approaches to Free Trade Agreements and there scope and requirements.

My comments regarding the afternoon session are below.

Would SACC committee authorise emailing this report to all SACC members?

EABC Trade Clinic for EU Economic and Commercial Counsellors + European Chambers representatives at NSW Parliament house

Ivano Casella, Counsellor, EU Delegation gave 2 lengthy presentations regarding EU Trade Communication and EU FTA policy in 2015 and WTO requirements.  In short, the EABC is very keen for a FTA, and it is obviously a big focus point for them.  They see the FTA as opening the Australian market for European countries to not only export goods more easily, but also services to Australia.

The most interesting discussion though was from Paul Koenig from the European Australian Advisory Group.  He raised quite a few issues, the main ones being

  1. The ridiculous situation were Australia has its own design rules that make life very difficult for other countries to export to Australia.  Ie, using a car as an example, if cars made in Germany are good enough for all of Europe, then why does Australia need to have outdated design rules that were in part designed to help protect out motor vehicle industry?
  2. The issue of qualifications of overseas trained people not being recognised.  This means that if a company wins a tender for a project here, they cannot easily bring workers in to undertake the work, and they need to employ additional local staff with accepted qualifications.  This is also an issue for immigrants who are highly qualified, yet cannot work in their field due to their qualifications not being recognised.
  3. Double Taxation affects investment decisions both in Australia and all the European countries who do not have an agreement. It stymies the two way flow of money for business and investment. There is a clear danger that any progress of Double Taxation agreements might be left to be part of a future FTA which would be 4 or more years away.  Paul thought having a unified framework for a double taxation resolution that EU countries could follow with Australia would speed the process for all countries
  4. There is some lack of confidence by investment funds overseas to invest in Australia.  This has largely come about recently were governments have sidelined or stopped an approved project meaning a loss of funds to the investors or at a minimum reduced returns.
  5. Investment Funds in Australia (ie, super funds) have large pockets and are actively looking for large scale overseas projects where they can receive a good return.

Jana and I spoke briefly after the meeting about Double Taxation and thought it worthwhile to investigate a joint approach by all countries Chambers of Commerce backed by the EABC.

This might be a joint submission to our Government signed by all affected Chambers, supported by the EABC, and with a statement by Paul Koenig as to the issues caused by Double Taxation and the importance and advantages of having this resolved.  This might help get it on a more immediate agenda for all our countries, and then assist in developing a unified framework which could be adapted for use by countries

Mark Stariha, Treasurer, Slovenian Australian Chamber of Commerce