Australia-Latin American Business Council networking day

  • Speech, check against delivery

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri, and pay my respect to Elders, past and present.

I also recognise all the Ambassadors and Chargés here today.

It's the second year in a row I've been fortunate enough to speak at this annual networking day.

Thanks for inviting me back, Richard.

And congratulations to you and the Australia-Latin American Business Council on another productive year.

I want to point out that a very important thing happened this year.

Our Matildas got to the Semi-finals of the Women's World Cup.

And we didn't see one Latin American country up there.

Which I think means we can safely pronounce Australia as the true home of football.

That was undiplomatic, so let me also say that Linda Caicedo had both the goal of the tournament and the story of the tournament.

A reminder of how football can bring us together across all boundaries.

Nevertheless, it was great to have such strong Latin American representation in Australia.

From Argentina, to Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Haiti and Panama.

I'm told that the Colombia vs Germany game in Sydney was a spectacular match – and that there were so many Colombia supporters it was like they were playing at home.

As the most attended Women's World Cup in history, the World Cup brought Latin America to Australia in a tangible way for millions of Australians who may not have visited or engaged with the region before.

You may know a part of my work as Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs has been to expand our ties with Latin America.

Our growing partnerships in Latin America are driven by increasingly shared interests.

Those interests are also incredibly diverse, befitting the fact that Latin America is incredibly diverse.

Allow me to give a quick snapshot.

11 Latin American nations look out to the Indo-Pacific from vast Pacific coastlines.

Three are G20 members.

Three are APEC members.

Four are OECD members – and three are acceding members.

Six are members of the Antarctic Treaty System.

Nine Latin American nations are members of the Cairns Group.

Three are members of the CPTPP – the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – with three more seeking to accede.

We all have strong interests in the international system – and want to ensure that system remains fit to deal with realities of the modern world.

And we are all members of the international trading system that has been fundamental to global economic growth.

So, as you can see, Australia and Latin America have shared interests across the board when it comes to both our foreign policies and to our trade policies.

Whether it is preventing climate change or preventing conflict, we need to deepen our cooperation.

As Foreign Minister Wong said at the UN General Assembly in September, "we can only solve our biggest problems together."

Indeed, 2024 will see Australia and our countries working together more than perhaps we have done in a number of years.

Peru will host APEC.

Brazil will host the G20.

I will call it now and dub 2024 the 'Year of the Americas'.

In preparing for this event, I had a question put to Australia's Ambassadors in Latin America: between Australia and your country of accreditation, what is the one economic opportunity that you are most excited about in 2024?

It's a tough question to ask because, as I've said, we have many shared interests and there are so many growing economic opportunities. 

But I'll tell you just a few of their replies.

One Ambassador came back immediately with one word: 'nearshoring'.

One told me 'resources and the energy transition'.

One said simply, 'education'.

Yet another said 'energy transition' and 'sustainable mining'.

Now, I'd love to ask the same question to the Latin American HOMs here today and hear what your answers are too later.

I think the replies that I got from our Australian Ambassadors paint a very good picture of the diversity of interests in Latin America I was talking about.

There are massive opportunities for Australia and Latin America across a wide range of sectors: in climate and sustainability, international education, mining, energy and resources, agtech and fintech, modern manufacturing and diversifying our supply chains.

These opportunities also reveal something about the challenges the world is facing, and the potential for the businesses and industries of Australia and Latin America to contribute to the solutions to global problems.

First and foremost, there is the planetary challenge of climate change.

Is any more evidence needed that the planet is reaching its environmental extremities after what we saw this year in the region?

Temperatures of nearly 40 degrees Celsius in the middle of winter in South America.

Not a scorching summer, but a white-hot winter…

…and the strongest ever hurricane to hit Mexico last month – devastating Acapulco

and the worst ever cyclone to hit Brazil in September.

Australia also knows the impacts of climate change all too well.

Therefore, nothing is more urgent and necessitates the world's collective action than the global transition to net zero.

We cannot leave this to the next generation; it has to be us.

I know that the nations of Latin America recognise this.

Brazil's leadership as the host of COP30 in 2025 is to be commended.

As host, Brazil will highlight Latin America's collective leadership in addressing the challenge of climate change.

And our business sectors, too, are playing crucial roles in the net zero transition.

Over 40 Australian companies are operating in Brazil, pursuing investments and joint ventures in critical minerals, green hydrogen and the METS sector.

Similarly, over 100 Australian METS companies have commercial activities in Peru, the host of next year's APEC.

Here, Australian companies are playing roles across the full mining supply chain, including in the copper sector, a globally important critical mineral for the net zero transition.

That sustainable future will also need a well-educated workforce.

Australia is educating the next generation of engineers, scientists and innovators, and the next generation of social scientists, businesspeople and leaders.

Latin American students are now the largest cohort of students in Australia outside of Asia, with Colombians now the fourth largest group of international students overall.

We want to ensure Australia remains a sought-after destination for young Latin Americans.

An amazing place to study and to learn, to build friendships and partnerships, and to help grow the connections between Australia and their countries of origin.

Our trade ties are also expanding. 

In 2022, goods and services trade with Latin America totalled A$16.3 billion (up 33.6 per cent from 2021).

The trade architecture we've built has been instrumental to that growth:

  • the Australia-Chile FTA, which celebrates its 15th year milestone next year;
  • the more recent Australia-Peru FTA;
  • and the CPTPP.

With the trade agreements, and more demand with a growing Latin American diaspora – now around 180,000 – there are more Latin American produce and goods on Australian shelves than ever before.

Thanks to the Guatemalan Ambassador, this year I've sampled some fine Guatemalan rum.

And they tell me you can get Inca Kola from Peru and Valentina salsa from Mexico and Tika Chips from Chile in shops in Australia. 

That's got to be because of the trade we opened up through our FTAs.

And, of course, Latin America remains a favourite tourism destination for Australians.

The resumption of QANTAS and LATAM flights in late 2022, and the LATAM Melbourne-Santiago flight this year, no doubt pleased many Aussies and Latinos alike.

Our relationships in Latin America – both at the personal and the commercial level – are growing in new and exciting ways.

It's great, as the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, to be a part of – and a champion for – that story of growth.

I commend this Council for your passion and your pivotal role in that story.

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