03/08/2004 - 22:00

Middle East growth fuels business links

03/08/2004 - 22:00

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Despite ongoing political and security concerns in the region, much of the Middle East is offering significant opportunities for Western Australian businesses.

Middle East growth fuels business links

Despite ongoing political and security concerns in the region, much of the Middle East is offering significant opportunities for Western Australian businesses.

Speaking at a trade breakfast in Perth last week, Austrade Middle East and Africa branch assistant secretary Victoria Owen said trade with Middle East countries was deepening.

Ms Owen said Australian business’ growing reputation, as the country’s proximity to the Middle East, were increasing the numbers of Australian companies in the Middle East’s sights.

Although the region has traditionally been a strong purchaser of Australian agricultural products, particularly produce from WA, Ms Owen said interests were growing into other areas, such as education and construction.

“They [Middle East countries] are becoming increasingly aware that Australia can offer a whole lot more,” Ms Owen said.

While acknowledging that some parts of the region were not recommended as business destinations, Australian business was doing well in other places, such as Dubai, she said.

More than 60 per cent of Australia’s automobile exports go to the Middle East, while big construction and engineering firms such as GHD Minproc, Clough Engineering, Multiplex and Lend Lease were all well established in the region.

Perth-based Austal Ships recently completed a $100 million contract to supply the Yemeni Government with 10 patrol boats, while GHD Minproc won a planning and management contract for the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar.

Ms Owen said big Australian companies, a number of smaller Western Australian businesses and governments had built high-quality reputations in the region.

“They have really delivered on what they promised,” she said.

Those at the breakfast also heard that some Middle East companies were reluctant to deal with US companies.

Despite security concerns, Ms Owen said many Australians were realising the Middle East was a good place to do business.

Galvin Engineering, which has been pursuing large specialist plumbing contracts in Dubai for the past two years, went there because of the large amount of high quality construction going on.

Galvin marketing director Chris Galvin said while a lot of other export markets went for price-based products, much of the Middle Eastern market went for products of high quality.

The Perth office of one of Australia’s largest architectural firms, Cox Howlett & Bailey Woodland, currently receives about one third of its work from the Middle East, or about $600 million worth of work under construction or documentation.

Cox Howlett & Bailey Woodland director Greg Howlett said that, at the moment, the construction industry in the Middle East was “about as good as it gets”.

But the new market did not really start to develop until about two years ago when his firm established a presence in Dubai, he said.

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