Julie Bishop warns corporate Australia: innovate or die

A flexible and innovative economy is key to the nation’s future economic success, said Australia Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop at Australia’s Asian Future Summit 2017. Tracey Porter reports.

Bishop cited the United States as an example. As well as being a global economic and strategic leader, the USA is also a powerhouse when it came to ideas and innovation. Having an agile and adaptive economy should be the message that the global community takes away from the American style of doing business.

As the nation’s largest source of foreign direct investment, and Australia’s second largest trading partner, the stance taken by the US should be adopted by the broader community here as well, Bishop said.

“Adapt and thrive; innovate or die.”

Addressing an audience of key business leaders at Australia’s Asian Future Summit 2017 in Sydney last week, Bishop said the relationship with China, as Australia’s largest merchandise trading partner and a key purchaser of both commodities and services, was just as important from an economic perspective as that of the US.

It was therefore imperative Australia kept its eye on the ball when it comes to ensuring corporate Australia offered complementary goods and services to this market.

“We are seeing a transformation in Asia in particular, going away from being a region of low-cost manufacturing, being a source of cheap labour for the rest of the world, to becoming a major source of global consumers.”

Bishop said Australia was “exquisitely placed” to take advantage of the rise of China due to its traditional strength as a commodities exporter in the beef, grains, dairy and wine industries but also because China had begun showing interest in Australia’s health and aged care services.

But there was also scope for the nation to take better advantage of the success of its Asian neighbours when it comes to new technology-based opportunities.

It was worth noting the fastest growing investment in advanced manufacturing, robotics, automation and artificial intelligence is in Asia.

“Australia has a great deal to offer the region but we also have to be ready to innovate, particularly as its estimated that a third of the jobs that exist today will be replaced by robots and software and other technological advances.

“Technological advancements are disrupting the way we live, the way we work, the way we interact, so it’s utterly essential that while we’re seeing this change in Asia to a strong consumer class that can work very well for Australia in terms of goods and services, we also have to be very innovative in being prepared to adapt.”

Bishop cited the government’s MIKTA initiative as a prime example of what is possible when countries work together to traverse the changing innovation landscape.

Referring to it as a “diplomatic startup”, Ms Bishop said the informal consultative initiative involved politicians, media and private sector representatives from Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia regularly meeting to swap insights and exchange ideas.

The group’s diverse membership lent it a unique perspective and allowed members to share their knowledge and perspectives resulting from varied experiences.

“We are truly engaged for the exchange of ideas or perspectives. We find ourselves aligning on so many different issues and areas, I think it’s been a great value to Australia. We’ve now got diplomatic exchanges, media exchanges, student exchanges, it’s a really innovative thing to do in foreign policy.”

 

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