The second Momentum Forum was held on 17th of March 2016. The event was organised by the Italian Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Australia – Perth (ICCI), with the support of the City of Perth, in order to promote the economic connections between Italy and Australia.
The forum was focused on Western Australia as a gateway to Asia and aimed to attract Italian and Australian companies, bankers, lawyers and experts from the finance, energy and infrastructure sectors to discuss future potential business opportunities.
Massimo Perotti, President of the ICCI in Perth, and David Balloni, the Italian Consul in Western Australia, delivered the opening speech on the day. Senator Francesco Giacobbe, and Mark Barnaba, Chairman of Macquarie Group, presented the peculiarities of Australia and Italy’s economies, offering an interesting socio-economic and financial overview of the two countries. Technical contribution came from Justin Carroll of PWC and Emilio Chiesi, Head of International Funding of Banca Carige.
Gordon Flakes, CEO of the Perth US Asia Centre, moderated the discussion and pointed out the role of Perth as the closest Western hub to Asia.
Main subjects arisen from the discussion
The purpose of the Momentum Forum 2016 was to bring together leading experts in business and government institutions, to discuss investment opportunities between Italy and Western Australia, with a focus on the cooperation between the two Countries for doing business in Asia.
Italy and Western Australia already have a long tradition of friendship as well as social, cultural and economic relations. The Italian presence in WA is well represented in the political, business and academic communities.
Strong ties are especially evident in the fields of innovation, natural resources, infrastructures, manufacturing, and goods and services, where the cooperation between Italian and Australian companies is well established. In particular, Italian exportations to Western Australia represent 2.2% of WA imports and 18% of European imports, making Italy the 3rd European trade partner for Western Australia.
Perth holds an unquestionable strategic position as a gateway to Asia, so the cooperation with Western Australia can be beneficial to Italy, not only for the geographic position, but also for the advantage of having a community of Australian professionals of Italian origin, who have developed a deep knowledge of the Asian market. As a result, Italian companies can derive benefits from Australia’s stable political, economic and social environment, as well as liaise with a network of professionals who can offer advice and assistance in Italian language.
In today’s globalized markets, innovation and brand value are crucial factors as key drivers to extra turnover. It is therefore important to create bonds between Italy and Australia to seize innovative ways of doing business.
Global markets in 2016 have observed persistent concerns over volatile Chinese equity markets, US monetary policy and falling commodity prices.
In Australia, predictions for 2016 highlight that Australian export health will continue to depend on China.
Mining and information technology are among the fastest growing industries in Western Australia, with China and Japan being the main destinations for Australian exportations.
The Italian economy is still recovering from the economic crisis that hit in 2008, made worse by new economies entering the market, such as India and China, which brought the competition of cheap labour cost and subsequently cheaper products, against which Italy was unable to compete. GDP growth remains below average compared to other EU Countries; however, the exportation sector represents a source of economic surplus, with Europe and the US as main destination markets.
Moreover, plans to improve infrastructures are in place, in order to create an efficient network for the exchange of goods, such as the TEN-T Priority Project 24 of the European Commission, which consists of a railway axis connecting the Port of Genova with Lyon in France and Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
Finally, global markets are still financially unstable, mostly due to the volatility of China as a growing economy, still on its path of transition from manufacturing to services, and concerns of disinflation in the rest of the world, causing negative interest rates in Europe, Japan and Sweden. Australia, on the other hand, is transitioning out of the mining boom, but still has strong labour market trends. Western Australia, in particular, still shows growing trends in the mining industry and export values in commodities.
The second edition of Momentum – “Western Australia a gateway to Asia” – has been a successful initiative for the promotion of the connections between Italy and Western Australia. Both Countries can derive mutual benefits from cooperation, where skills and capabilities brought by the Italian influx can be teamed up with the entrepreneurial spirit of Western Australians.