Ridgway charts Europe trade route for SA

New ag dollars and more British working holidays will soon open up to South Australians as the long-touted UK trade agreement makes its final approval journey through the House of Lords. The state’s Agent General briefs InDaily during a trip home from London.

Feb 27, 2023, updated Feb 27, 2023
South Australia's Agent General David Ridgway is based at Australia House in London.

South Australia's Agent General David Ridgway is based at Australia House in London.

It has been a tumultuous 18 months for United Kingdom and Europe agent general David Ridgway who has been in Adelaide over the past week to spruik new opportunities for the state’s businesses and government leaders.

When he first landed at the London office in July, 2021, he was down three key staff and soon after heard the state’s new Paris trade office was being scrapped when Australia abandoned its agreement to buy submarines from France.

Now with a full complement at Australia House headquarters, the state’s former Trade and Investment Minister is preparing for the much-anticipated Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement he expects will be finalised in April.

The agreement offers huge opportunity to the state, eliminating tariffs on some 99 per cent of Australian goods exports to the UK.

Shared skills are part of the deal with the age of young people keen on working holidays rising from 30 to 35 years and stays allowed for up to three years in each country.

Ridgway is optimistic about the agreement creating fresh markets for South Australian products like red meat, wine and chocolates, once it comes into play.

“It means we can get freer access to UK markets for a lot of agriculture products,” he said.

Red meat quotas would be gradually reduced to zero for example, and a product like Haigh’s chocolates which was formerly banned from import under old European Union rules over its milk content “now they will be allowed with no restrictions”.

Beef will have a tariff-free quota of 35,000 tonnes at entry once the agreement comes into force and this will expand to 110,000 tonnes in year 10. The tariffs will be eliminated completely after ten years.

It will be the first wholly new free trade agreement the UK has completed since it left the European Union.

Ridgway said another major announcement likely to boost the state’s economy is expected to come next month.

The Federal Government is preparing to announce whether it will buy the nation’s new nuclear-powered submarines from the United Kingdom or the United States, the subs expected to be built in SA.

Either way, Ridgway believes the relationships being built through his London-based trade office will lead to new defence work and companies being drawn to South Australia.

The trade office has 1200 defence supply chain companies on its database and “we are ready to talk to them about joint ventures and about opening an office in SA”.

Steering the defence sector trade relationships is the state’s new UK and Europe country director Stephen Camporeale.

Camporeale joined the office last year and was formerly chief executive officer of the European businesses of Adelaide-headquartered defence company Nova Systems.

Others rounding out the trade office include Henry Lawton.

Lawton is now investment director and was formerly vice president of a global research provider servicing leading Australian and international private equity and infrastructure investors.

While Karen Makepeace was appointed business development manager in September last year after having been the international buyer for online UK grocery business Ocado Retail.

“I think the team is well equipped for our key focuses,” Ridgway said.

He tells of the year’s calendar kicking off with a hydrogen event at the Australian High Commission in London followed by a wine event tied in with the Ashes cricket test, then a defence and space focus in September.

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A strong South Australian wine business contingent will also be supported among about 60 Australian wineries showing their products at ProWein in Dusseldorf, Germany, next month, a trade fair attended by 6000 exhibitors from more than 60 countries.

“It’s full of buyers, wholesale buyers, coming to try the product at the biggest wine show in the world,” Ridgway said.

King Charles meets Governor of South Australia Frances Adamson, Rod Bunten, Former Agent General of South Australia Bill Muirhead, David Ridgway and Peter Flavel at Buckingham Palace, London. Photo: Aaron Chown/Pool via REUTERS

Defence, ag and wine are firmly on the radar but Ridgway says the state’s hydrogen projects are also attracting investment interest, particularly from Germany and the United Kingdom.

“The next big thing is hydrogen,” Ridgway said, “there is global interest in what’s happening in hydrogen in SA and we’ll have quite a presence at the World Hydrogen Summit in Rotterdam (the Netherlands) in May”.

“What we try and do is provide that personalised service to people to make them feel welcome,” he said, pointing to the relationship built with world-leading small satellite company Surrey Satellite Technology.

The UK-based company that is part of the Airbus Group, established its first office in the southern hemisphere at Lot Fourteen in January. The business was founded in 1985 by Sir Martin Sweeting, who was the original designer of the first modern ‘microsat’.

Ridgway also has paid a visit to Lithuania on the back of Premier Peter Malinauskas’s connection with the country through one of his grandparents, “and we are building a relationship around trade opportunities”.

South Australia has several trade offices around the globe including:

London, United Kingdom: focusing on trade to UK and Europe and led by agent general David Ridgway.

Houston, Texas, United States: covering the Americas region and led by regional director Americas Stuart Nutting, who is currently based in New York, and deputy director Americas Regina Johnson who is based in the Houston office.

China: trade and investment office in Shanghai, led by country director China Ms Xiao-Ya Wei. Further office in Jinan and representation in Guangzhou, plus a representative in Hong Kong, Alice Jim.

Dubai: trade and investment office for the Middle East and North Africa, as well as India, led by regional director Sidharth Mehta. India business development manager Varun Anthony is based in New Delhi.

Tokyo, Japan: the North East Asia office is led by regional director Japan and Korea Sally Townsend and she works with business development manager Myungjin (MJ) Kim, based in Seoul, Korea.

South East Asia: covering Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, in-market representative Adil Akbar is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Adelaide established a sister-city relationship with Georgetown in Penang, in 1973.


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