APIBC BLOG : 26th Feb 2016

APIBC Executive Director visits New Caledonia 23-26 February, 2016.

Executive Director of the Australia Pacific Islands Business Council reports on his latest visit to New Caledonia

— By Frank Yourn

The Executive Director of the APIBC, Frank Yourn, visited New Caledonia from 23 to 26 February 2016. The main purposes of the visit was to attend a meeting of the Council’s New Caledonia Working Group, to attend a Bilateral Export Workshop arranged jointly by the Working Group and by the Australian Consulate-General, and to start a discussion about planning for the Australia New Caledonia Business Forum in Brisbane in September 2016.

Wednesday 24th February - Meeting of the APIBC working Group

The Working Group met on the afternoon of Wednesday 24 February 2016. The meeting was hosted at the Australian Consulate-General, the usual venue. 

APIBC members attending were: Denis Etournaud(Vice-President, APIBC)(Chair, APIBC Noumea Working Group), Felecia Garnier (ANZ Banking Group), Sylvie Di Maio (Qantas), Dominique Annonier (La Vinotheque).

Non-members attending were: Philip Johnston (Casino Johnston), Jean-Marie Renard (QBE), Xavier Benoist (Caltrac).

Consulate-General staff attending were Paul Wilson (Consul-General), Sandy Henderson (Deputy Consul-General), Madeline Courvisanos.

Key issues discussed were:

  • Opportunities arising to promote the Australia New Caledonia business relationship through the Council’s new website and other media.
  • The Executive Director briefed the meeting on the Council’s work program for 2016.
  • The Bilateral Export Workshop planned for the following day.
  • The Austmine mission in the week 14 to 18 March, which follows a similar visit in April 2015 which coincided with the 11th Australia New Caledonia Business Forum.
  • The 12th Australia New Caledonia Business Forum.  Taking into account the difficulties of managing airline schedules it was agreed the date would be Friday 9 September.  The possibility of a business group from New Caledonia visiting north Queensland will be considered later.  The Working Group will develop a theme and speaker program for the Forum in consultation with the Secretariat.  The Working Group advocated having trade booths available for companies to mount product and services displays.
  • Possible means of assistance which might be offered to the New Caledonia government in its consideration of proposed tax reform, in particular drawing on Australia’s experience with the introduction in 2000 of the GST.
  • A possible visit to Australia in April or May 2016 by President Germain accompanied by a trade delegation.  At present the planning seems to be around a visit to Canberra for political dialogue and a visit to Sydney for business promotion.
  • The Executive Director briefed the meeting on the situation at Bauerfield Airport, Port Vila, drawing on information provided by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Virgin Australia at the Council’s executive committee meeting in Sydney on 18 February.

The Working Group was originally formed as a vehicle for APIBC members in New Caledonia to come together to discuss and advocate policy issues germane to the bilateral business relationship and to foreign investment into New Caledonia.  It is doing well in this regard, especially under the expert guidance of Denis Etournaud. It receives strong support from the Australian Consulate-General.

There are a number of participants in the Working Group who are not members of the APIBC. At the meeting the Executive Director attended non-members were QBE, Casino Johnson, and Caltrac.  The Working Group should encourage these companies to take membership. QBE in particular has a regional business presence and should take membership from its Australian head office following the model of, for example, ANZ, Qantas and Nestle.

Thursday 25th February - Bilateral Business Workshop 

This event was arranged collaboratively by the Australian Consulate-General and the APIBC New Caledonia Working Group. It was held at the conference centre of the Institute of Research and Development (IRD).  Sponsors were ANZ Banking Group and Arnott’s (note: Arnott’s are not an APIBC member, but perhaps they could be targeted either in New Caledonia or Australia?). The New Caledonia Government underwrote the cost of providing simultaneous translation services for the Workshop. Approximately 120 delegates registered for attendance including 24 students in the international business program of the La Perouse School who will later in the year undertake internships with businesses in Australia and New Zealand.

The program was officially opened by Mr Georges De Noni, Director of IRD, and Mr Paul Wilson, Australian Consul-General.  Denis Etournaud, APIBC Vice-President, made the concluding remarks. 

The program included presentation and discussion on:

  • Bilateral Trade: First Steps. (New Caledonia Government; Austrade)
  • Things to consider in setting up/creating your bilateral trade project. (Golder Associates (consulting, design and construction services); QBE (insurance – the oldest Australian business presence in New Caledonia); Baker and McKenzie (legal services); Bluecham (geospacial technology); Avenir Export (export services).
  • Biosecurity (Animal, Food and Plant Health Control Department, New Caledonia Government; Biodiversity, Ocean and Land-based EcologyDepartment,IRD; a representative of the Animal Biosecurity Branch, Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources).
  • Logistics (Technique and Formation (Technical and Training) (Business Advisory); Logistic and Transit Noumea (freight forwarder); Business Adviser, Customs Directorate,New Caledonia Government). 

This was an excellent half day program which promoted doing business from New Caledonia to Australia and gave the APIBC further profile in New Caledonia. It also provided an opportunity to identify some speakers and themes for the Business Forum in September.  Another useful outcome was that the Executive Director was able in one place to renew contact with a range of New Caledonian interlocutors and also meet new contacts.

Meeting with Ms Sandrine Bellier, New Caledonia Government 

With Denis Etournaud I met with Sandrine Bellier, Senior Advisor for Economic Co-operation and Trade in the Regional Co-operation and External Relations Department of the New Caledonia Government.  Ms Bellier has been a strong supporter of the work of the APIBC and has attended and spoken at some of the Council’s Business Forums in Brisbane and the one in Noumea in 2015. She has provided practical assistance including at the Forum in Noumea in April 2015 and at the Workshop in Noumea reported above by providing simultaneous translation services at New Caledonia Government expense.  She fully understands the need for New Caledonia to undertake wide ranging reforms to enable it to engage more fully with the region around it, including Australia and New Zealand, and is knowledgeable about regional political and economic affairs.  We discussed President Germain’s possible visit to Australia, and I advocated that he should visit Queensland to connect with the Queensland Government and with Australian business in Queensland. At present there seems to be a risk that the visit will focus on connecting with French business in Australia which will achieve less than if they also connect with Australian business. Ms Bellier understands this.

Meeting with Mr Roy Parfitt, Caledonian Hosted Holidays 

Mr Parfitt contacted me in April 2015 when he saw some media coverage in Noumea of the Business Forum held at that time.  I met with him to fulfil an undertaking to do so that I gave at that time. He is a small private Australian investor in small inbound tourism business in New Caledonia.  He has been operating his inbound tourism business for about 10 years. He struggles to get traction with Australian tourism wholesalers in Australia, and as a result most of his business revolves around providing services to cruise ship passengers. It was interesting to connect with and get a perspective from a small Australian investor who is completely under the radar of the mainstream of Australian business in New Caledonia.

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