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CHANGING WORLD: Climate change and water sustainability are two emerging trade areas for WA businesses in North America.

Opportunities emerge in the Americas

Austrade's recently appointed regional director for the Americas is bullish on Australian trade opportunities in the region.

Grame Barty says that, with a lot of exporters' attention focused on China and India, significant changes occurring in the Americas with regard to energy, food and water security are providing business and market opportunities for Australia.

"Unquestionably we will continue to trade with China and India and take the opportunities that those countries present," Mr Barty said.

"The US is our third largest trading partner and therefore it rates very highly in the scheme of things."

Mr Barty, who was managing director of Perth-based education software company, Harvest Road, for 11 years before taking his current position, believes the opportunities in energy and climate change-related business in the Americas are of a similar magnitude to those in IT in the 1990s, and in the (then) emerging markets of China and India in the 1990s.

"When the oil price went to $140 a barrel in May there was a significant change in American consumer sentiment about wanting to genuinely attack alternative energy sources, becoming less reliant on imported oil and to have a much greater concern about climate change and in particular water conservation," he said.

"As consumer behaviour changes, the commercialisation opportunities of alternatives around energy and climate change will appear."

Mr Barty said important areas of focus for Australia in North America included energy, climate change adaptation, water sustainability, infrastructure development and consumer goods.

"The trigger point in the US marketplace will be the US election. There may be a real take-up really quickly for alternative energy schemes or efficiency in existing energy schemes that will be commercialised in the US very quickly," he said.

With an Australia/Chile free trade agreement currently being negotiated, Latin America is seen as a market with a wealth of opportunity for Australian exporters, particularly in agriculture, natural resource supply, offshore agriculture production, consumer and creative products, and services for a rapidly growing middle class.

"The Western Australian market capability has excelled in marine sciences and there is an opportunity for us to invest our knowledge and capability in markets that have experienced similarly stressed environments," Mr Barty said.

"Peru and Chile are suffering water conservation issues, largely because of receding snow caps on the Andes."

There are also opportunities to utilise Australian expertise in innovative financing and project management for infrastructure development across the region.

"A major requirement in both Latin America and in the US is to repair infrastructure of ports, railways and freeways," Mr Barty said.

"And if the cost of transportation continues to increase, there is a lot of interest in light rail and hopefully some of that expertise we have picked up on the major Mandurah and Joondalup rail link."

Political stability has traditionally been a concern for Australian exporters in the Latin American region, however Mr Barty believes the large contingent of Australian companies working there has created a stable base.

"Certainly some countries are going to great lengths to secure their stability. Brazil is one that recently secured a very high rating from Moody's," he said.

"You're looking at markets that are the size of Western Europe and are stable and looking to engage internationally, and that's what we're really trying to promote.

"In Latin America in particular there is a very high regard for Australian capability and Australian products."

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