Matchmaking service for trade

THE DEPARTMENT of Commerce and Trade’s WA Office in Mumbai, India, operates very much like a matchmaking service for bilateral trade, says regional director Walter Joseph.

“I don’t think many people realise the vast amount of assistance Commerce and Trade can offer even the smallest business,” Mr Joseph said.

“I believe this department is the best asset of the WA Government.

“We meet with local companies, make sure we understand their business, pick up their brochures, then go back to the country we are responsible for and examine opportunities for them in those markets.

“We then identify five or six companies that have synergies with these WA organisations, and whether the product is acceptable or necessary in the new market.

“A dialogue then takes place between the two companies.

“If the WA company decides to go to India, we meet with them at the airport and show them around, teaching them the culture, tariffs and business ethics.

“We don’t really interfere with the financial side of things but act very much as a ‘marriage counsellor’, bringing people together and monitoring the progress.”

The department does not charge a fee for the service.

Mr Joseph was recently in Perth for the WA Global Overseas Network (WAGON) 2000 Conference, which included visits by Commerce and Trade regional directors to rural areas in WA.

“We had a session about India which included two case studies of successes in that market,” Mr Joseph said.

“Attendees were able to hear the pros and cons of these experiences in addition to input from Commerce and Trade, which gave them market intelligence.

“As part of the conference, they were also able to register with us for one-on-one meetings to examine their individual trade opportunities.”

He said the department helped businesses prepare, and perhaps adapt, their product for international markets.

“One of my major roles in India is to raise the profile of firstly Australia, and in particular, WA, because we are not ‘natural’ trading partners.

“India tends to look to traditional trading partners like the US and Europe and, while they love Australia, when it comes to doing business, they see it as being a market that is too small.

“I don’t think WA realises just how much it is leading the way with technology because they are so lackadaisical in their approach.

“I sell that story to the Indian people and they say, ‘Gosh, we better go there’.

“I tell them about the health system, education, resources that go to India like wool, gold and diamonds, and a lot of consultancy, manufacturing and food processing services are starting to come across now.

“Mining is the big ticket item, however.”

Mr Joseph said he was planning to bring more industry-specific trade missions to India.

“We are also trying to invite investment fund flow from India into major projects in WA,” he said.

“We are looking at taking an investment roadshow into India that would illustrate the capabilities of the State. We will also bring a number of investors to WA and show them some outstanding projects.”

He said there was no friction between the two cultures.

“Everyone in India speaks English, so there’s no worry there, and we have the same legal system,” he said.

He advised every WA company to consider at least one prospective international market for bilateral trade.

“If you manufactured, say, shirts in WA and sold them to every person in the state, you would only sell 1,500,000.

“If you exported them to India, you could sell to a market of 1 billion people, and 30 million would probably buy one.

“That’s the volume we’re talking about in India.”

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