Speech at the Trade Commissioners Group Luncheon, 19 September 2013 Martin Cutter

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Trade Commissioners Group Luncheon

Speech prepared for Martin Cutter

Australia Club, William Street, Melbourne VIC 3000

Thursday 19 September 2013

Welcome to you all.

I want to respectfully acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional land of the Kulin Nation and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.

The Lord Mayor couldn’t be here with us today but he said to pass on his warm regards and to tell you that your hard work and commitment to Melbourne and our international connections is greatly appreciated.

Today I want to talk to you about the work we are doing at the City of Melbourne to ensure that our commitment to growing the city economy and, in particular, our rapidly growing knowledge sector is matched by a strong and consistent focus on the rapidly growing ‘city’ economies of Asia.

That’s not to downplay our trading partners in the US and the UK, in New Zealand, in Canada and across Europe. You are all valued partners and your communities and families here are an important part of the Melbourne landscape.

But the fact is: the Asian Century is upon us.

The economies of Asia are on the rise. And they are set to generate great opportunity and unparalleled prosperity, and play an increasingly important role in the global economy over the next century and beyond.

Melbourne not only sees itself as a participant and active partner in the broader Asian economy, we also see ourselves as a connector or enabler for many of you here today.

A gateway – if you like – into Asia and into the fastest growing region on the planet.

In Melbourne, we want to be part of this new economic paradigm.

And we see our city-to-city relationships across Asia as the key to our future prosperity. Indeed, our Council Plan identifies “city-to-city connections” as integral to expanding our reach and influence in the ASEAN region and to creating new opportunities and new markets for businesses in the City of Melbourne.

And we’ve spelt that out in our council plan because we understand that it’s the world’s major cities, not its nations that will continue to lead the way in building strong regional networks and creating the new jobs and new opportunities their people demand.

They are the key to our future prosperity.

I know that this is an area the Lord Mayor is particularly passionate about.

He’s talked many times about the power and influence of cities, especially in this time of increasing urbanisation across Asia, and about their ability to work collaboratively to create more prosperous and sustainable futures for their citizens.

In fact, his experience in Denmark during the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009 only reinforced this belief.

As the Lord Mayor tells it: at the same time as the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen was hosting a climate summit for 80 mayors from around the world at the Copenhagen Town Hall, just down the road national leaders were meeting at the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

As nations butted heads over wording and targets, they failed to agree on how to limit the maximum global average temperature increase to no more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Meanwhile, the 80 Mayors were having a very different experience.

They were working on practical projects that would deliver real differences to their cities. Their conversations were practical – they were about real action. And they were collaborative, with the mayors looking at how they could work together to reduce emissions.

The Lord Mayor said he came away from that meeting knowing that the war on climate change would be won or lost in our cities.

New York Mayor – Michael Bloomberg – perhaps summed it up best when he said: “Nations talk, cities act.”

Well, I can report to you all that Melbourne is acting.

We are moving to position this city as a key player and trusted partner in our region. And through our International Engagement Framework, which was endorsed by Council in April 2010, we are strengthening long standing city to city relationships and expanding business, educational and cultural connections.

Our aim is to help Melbourne businesses increase their exports, as well as promoting inwards investment into Melbourne’s key industry sectors.

The scope of our engagement is impressive.

We have established sister partnerships with Osaka, Tianjin, Thessaloniki, Boston, St Petersburg and Milan, and we have a strategic alliance with New Delhi. And over time, we have also established strong relationships with bilateral chambers of commerce both in Melbourne and internationally.

Melbourne also welcomes many trade and cultural delegations from around the world, as well as thousands of international students to our city each year.

Our strong relationship with the city of Tianjin is a good example of how our work in the region is reaping dividends.

When Melbourne and Tianjin became sister cities in 1980 it was a first – the first agreement by any Australian capital city government with a Chinese city government. And remember, this landmark agreement came only seven years after Gough Whitlam became the first Australian Prime Minister to visit China.

These were the very early days of Australia’s relationship with China – and Melbourne was leading the way. It still is.

For example, in 1998 the City of Melbourne became the first Australian capital city government to open an office in China. The Melbourne Tianjin Office consolidated our sister city relationship, increased two-way business and investment exchange and provided the impetus for further city-to-city exchanges, projects and events.

All this has raised Melbourne’s profile – in and outside of Tianjin.

For example, in 2010 and 2011, the City of Melbourne led two delegations to China, not only to Tianjin, but also to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. We took dozens of delegates from Victorian businesses and institutions on those missions, including VECCI Chief Executive Mark Stone.

And the outcomes of those missions were impressive. Two contracts, 13 memoranda of understanding and, importantly, we demonstrated Melbourne’s capability in key areas such as bio-technology, urban design and planning and education.

But the relationship isn’t just one way. When Tianjin Mayor – Huang Xingguo – visited Melbourne on a trade mission in 2010, he went home with more than $800 million in new contracts signed by Victorian businesses. That’s a great outcome for Melbourne businesses and we are determined to keep the momentum going.

That’s why the Tianjin Government Leaders Training Program is so important to us.

Just as our office in Tianjin gives us a presence and a profile among the business community there, so the Leaders Training Program gives raises the profile of Tianjin business leaders in Melbourne. The program brings together commercial, education and government institutions and establishes the relationships that will underpin future business activity.

Twenty senior businesses and government leaders are sent to Melbourne to take part in a 12-week business management course at RMIT University. Since its implementation in 2001, over 220 leaders have graduated.

The program not only provides a springboard for local businesses like architectural firm Denton Corker Marshal, the ANZ Bank, RMIT and Urbis JHD, who are a professional services firm, it also does much to strengthen the ties between the people and organisations of both cities.

That strong relationship was acknowledged recently when our Tianjin office received the People's Friendship Award from the Chinese People's Friendship Association and the Tianjin Municipal People’s Government - Foreign Affairs Office. It was a great honour and a sign that our relationship with Tianjin is as strong and as resilient as ever.

Tianjin was Melbourne’s second sister city relationship. Our first was the city of Osaka – and this year the cities celebrate their 35th anniversary.

Over the past three and half decades we have grown close and our ties have strengthened considerably, no doubt due to the incredible range of business, trade, sporting and cultural activities that happen each year.

For example, in recent times we’ve seen a range of events and collaborations including:

Melbourne-Osaka design maps – which featured designers from Melbourne and Osaka mapping their design highlights and secrets from their home cities

The Japanese Summer Festival in Melbourne which attracts around 10,000 people each year

The momentous Melbourne to Osaka yacht race

And just this year we had the future leaders exchange in the biotech sector between the cities.

Indeed, we see great opportunities for collaboration in biotech, as well as in sustainability and clean-tech industries, and in sustainable urban design. It is these areas that will be the focus of the delegation we lead to Osaka in March next year and it is these, and other, knowledge-based industries that will drive growth and prosperity in Melbourne for years to come.

Speaking of design, the Melbourne Movement (MM), which comprises a group of very talented young Melbourne designers, was invited to exhibit products at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile (or Milan Furniture Fair) in Milan earlier this year.

It is a huge event and an invaluable opportunity for our young furniture designers, which is why the City of Melbourne was happy to help fund the venture.

It’s yet another example of our knowledge sector taking what it does to the world.

Melbourne’s rapidly growing knowledge sector – or the emerging “idea generating and problem solving class” as Nobel laureate Robert Lucas Jr. refers to it as – will underpin our growth and prosperity for years to come.

The figures are revealing.

All up, the City of Melbourne’s core and intermediate knowledge sector accounts for nearly 40% of all businesses and organisations and 67% of our workforce – or close to 300, 000 people. And it’s worth around $28 billion, which is getting close to half of our Gross City Product.

It’s little surprise then that our international engagement activities have a major focus on our knowledge capabilities. And they will continue to do so for many years to come.

A good example of the kind of local business we are talking about is PageUp People.

PageUp People has been up and running for 16 years and is run by Karen and Simon Carriss. They sell cloud-based recruitment and talent management software to mainly large corporations.

The company won the innovation award for Business 3000 back in 2006 – an award the City of Melbourne is proud to sponsor – before setting their sights on South East Asia. Karen and Simon have now relocated to Singapore and they are looking to establish themselves there before pushing into the Chinese and Indian markets.

PageUp People is a perfect example of how we are changing here in Melbourne: an innovative, knowledge-based local company finding success in Asia.

By the way, if you want to find out more about PageUp People, the latest BRW contains a great profile of the business.

Our friends in Osaka were also responsible for Melbourne’s membership of the influential Asian Business Partner City Network, or the BPC Network as it’s known.

The BPC Network is made up of 14 of the leading business cities and chambers of commerce in the Asia Pacific region and is all about building strong and enduring city-to-city relationships. And it does this by embracing practical measures to create better links between Melbourne enterprises and business and investment organisations in Asia.

As many of you would be aware, Melbourne has just hosted the 2013 Business Partner Cities Roundtable. It is the third time we have done so, and we did it in partnership with the City of Osaka, the Osaka Business Partner City Council and the Australian Industry Group.

The focus of the Melbourne Roundtable was on the business of design, one of Melbourne’s key knowledge sectors.

As many of you know, design is crucial to business success. Good design can spark innovation, boost productivity and increase international competitiveness.

It is – in every way – the great enabler.

That’s why we have worked hard to develop our capacity in innovation and creative design in Melbourne. In fact, our business sector here is becoming more and more ‘design-conscious’.

The figures back this up.

Around 185,000 people are employed in design roles in Victoria and we are home to more than 4,000 design consultancies. And these consultancies are worth more than $7 billion to Victoria's economy.

The Roundtable was very successful. The participants were able to share their ideas, talk about opportunities for collaboration in the future and, of course, enjoy our great city of Melbourne.

We will continue to work hard with our partners – partners like you, like the State Government and Austrade, and like our bilateral chambers. And our aim is to continue to broaden and intensify our links across Asia and around the world.

We believe that the strong and respectful relationships we are building, and the productive business partnerships we are forming, will ensure that we well placed to reap the benefits of the Asian Century.

Thank you.


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