Chargé d’Affaires James Carouso
(As prepared for delivery – September 12, 2017)
Good evening and thank you for joining us today. I’d like to acknowledge Minnie Constan, the Event Director for Diversified Communications for continuing to go out of the way to support a U.S. presence at Fine Food Australia each year. Without her continued efforts it would be very difficult for us to be here.
And it really is great to be here at Fine Food Australia, surrounded by some of the most high quality food and drink on offer—this is a tough gig, to be sure!
It’s certainly hard to walk past an exhibition that’s home to the Official Great Aussie Pie & Sausage Roll Competition. I can say that even as an American—because one of the terrific things about our partnership is how it exposes us to culinary delights from both sides of the Pacific. And, true to form, in 2017 you can now enjoy the flavor sensation that is the Australian meat pie while sitting in the stands at an Aussie Rules football match all the way in Tampa Bay, Florida.
The U.S. and Australia are among the global leaders in agriculture exports and together we’re on the front foot to ensure this continues into the future. Earlier this year, we signed a bilateral Food Safety Recognition Agreement, further reinforcing our position as trusted suppliers of safe, high quality food.
And let’s not forget the U.S.–Australia Free Trade Agreement—for 12 years now it has provided our producers privileged access to each other’s markets. And the new administration’s goal remains to reduce barriers to, and raise standards for, trade and investment, both in this region and globally. In fact, being located in opposite hemispheres as we are, our countries serve as complementary ‘off season’ suppliers of dependable produce, such as fruits and vegetables—as well as year-round suppliers of non-seasonal products.
But the proof of AUSFTA is in the pudding—U.S. agricultural exports to Australia totaled $1.3 billion in 2016, up from $410 million in the year prior to the trade agreement’s implementation, with products including pork and fresh fruit topping the list of exports. Australians are no stranger to fine American food, and I congratulate some of those companies here tonight—including Feast on This; Cartel & Co.; and Hormel Foods Australia—who have found success in distributing our outstanding produce and packaged products to the Australian market.
And at the other end of the spectrum, U.S. agricultural imports from Australia totaled a whopping $3.38 billion in 2016. We are the top destination in the world for Australian beef, as well as a major importer of Australian dairy, wine and beer. Indeed, Australian wine exports to the U.S. were up 3 per cent to $458 million in 2016. As a New Yorker, I’m proud to say the Greater New York area is leading the charge in the consumption of premium Australian wines back home—exports to the region were up 58 per cent last year. We know how to appreciate a fine drop and Australian wine delivers.
Our solid position on the global stage is supported by more than just regulatory cooperation. Ongoing innovation in agribusiness is essential to meet global demand, combat disease, and manage limited resources. To this end, we are seeing Australian initiatives like The Yield uniting with American technologies, like Microsoft Azure, to create new ag-tech solutions for safer, more efficient production.
Between private enterprise and government investment—Australia is at the hub of some cutting edge stuff, and that’s bound to increase the quality, volume and range of products coming out of this country. Walking around today, you will have already seen a selection of the diversity and innovation on show from all over the country. Australians, like Americans, are hot on the tail of the next big thing: whether it’s scientific progress to support better health or the environment, like the CSIRO’s gluten-free barley; or the exploration of new taste sensations, like green ant gin. Because it just wouldn’t be Australian if it wasn’t trying to bite you.
To the Americans in the audience today—there’s a reason Australia is #15 on WorldBank’s global Ease of Doing Business Scale and I highly recommend you look into the Australian business environment while you’re here. Not only do we start with a common language—well, for the most part—but there are myriad other benefits to working in this country, from similar legal and business institutions and public familiarity with American products, to official recognition of U.S. food safety standards.
You need only look at the success stories of companies like Chobani, which captured local interest and has since opened a facility in Melbourne—positioning themselves to take full advantage of the Australian business environment and utilizing the safe, quality produce available in this country.
On the flipside, I can assure the Australians here tonight that you’re missing out if you assumed U.S. gastronomy peaked with aerosol cheese and Twinkies. The U.S. is Australia’s second largest supplier of agricultural products. And with our similar market profiles, this is in no small part because the U.S. food industry is in touch with Australian consumers’ desire for fresh, wholesome and healthy products.
I encourage visitors to explore the American stands here at Fine Foods over the next couple of days to start discovering the great depth of what we have to offer. This common culture and those shared values provide a huge leg-up for American and Australian companies to explore each other’s market. And our ongoing pursuit of health, safety and innovation on both sides maintains an environment of mutual trust and reliability for consumers, corporations and government alike.
In short, the continued strength of our trade and investment relationship is critical to support the year-round supply of new, safe and affordable food and drink to both our nations. And there is a wealth of opportunity here at your fingertips this week. Colleagues, the U.S.–Australian Alliance is your oyster.
Thank you all again for coming tonight and I wish you a successful exhibition.