Australia-UAE Economic Relationship Growing — Gillard

  • 16 January 2014

Australia’s former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, hailed economic ties with the UAE at a lecture in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Bilateral trade exceeds $5 billion (Dh18.3 billion) annually with UAE exports to Australia dominated by petroleum and related products, Gillard said at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies (ECSSR). Imports from Australia to the UAE are largely led by alumina, seeds, grains, fruit, meat and livestock, dairy, vegetables and motor vehicles.

Gillard, who was giving a lecture on the future cooperation between the UAE and Australia, said: “The completion of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] free trade agreement [FTA] with Australia is of the highest importance.”

Australia has been trying to sign a FTA with the GCC countries since 2007. Australia had previously begun FTA negotiations with the UAE, which were abandoned when the GCC decided to approach FTAs as a group. The last GCC-Australia FTA negotiations were held in June 2009, before Gillard was Prime Minister.

Gillard said she would like to see the UAE burst into the top ten countries for Australians living abroad. It is currently 11th with 16,000 Australians living and working in the UAE.

The former Prime Minister, who quit politics at Australia’s last election in September, spoke highly of the Australian aviation industry and the links with UAE airlines. Qantas currently enjoys a partnership with Emirates, which Gillard said has seen passenger traffic between Dubai International and Australia jump 38 per cent since it was launched in April last year. Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways holds a significant equity stake in Virgin Australia.

However, she did not address the struggles of Australia’s aviation industry — or its motor manufacturing industry. Qantas’ credit rating has been dropped to “junk status” twice in the past two months as it calls on assistance from the federal government ahead of an expected $300 million loss. Australia’s car manufacturing is also at slump. Ford and General Motors-owned Holden have both announced they will exit manufacturing in Australia. And according to some commentators, Toyota, who export the Australian-made Corolla and Camry to the UAE, is not too far behind.

Despite attempts made both before and after the lecture, Gulf News was unable to request comment due to Gillard adopting a policy of not doing media interviews overseas. However, Gillard did respond to audience questions following her lecture.