Austrade: AUSFTA opening US doors

Austrade: AUSFTA opening US doors

An industry official has claimed the US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) has opened up new opportunities for local companies

Austrade's US business development manager, Dan Sullivan, said the US Government market had been notoriously difficult to crack, with legislation such as the Buy America Act proving to be major inhibitors for foreign players.

"Previously, companies wanting to sell to the US Government had to set up an American subsidiary, which was a big cost," he said. "If a company couldn't afford a local subsidiary it had to work through a US partner, which affected margins and raised issues around intellectual property, ownership and transfer."

Under AUSFTA, these conditions had been waived, he said.

The agreement also supplied a legislative safety net, Sullivan said, mitigating risk for Australian com­panies working in the US.

"Some Australian companies may be able to nibble away at the cracks and make some inroads. Some people might not like that," he said. "The FTA provides a framework for companies to fall back on if they are treated in a discriminatory way."

Sullivan is currently tasked with promoting the Australian ICT sector to the massive US Federal Government market. As part of this initiative, the agency has opened a new office within the Australian embassy in Washington DC. The bureau is designed to help companies sell into local, state and Federal Government, e-government and the Homeland Security market.

Austrade also worked with a dele­-gation of Australian ICT companies earlier this month at the annual Federal Office Supplies Exposition (FOSE).

Aerosonde, Gesix, Hardcat, Hide-Away-Safe, Quickcomm, Sparx Systems, Tenix Connections and Tower Software all shared a pavilion aimed at cornering a slice of the $US60 billion US Federal Government market.

Sullivan said it would look to promote companies at the event every year.

Austrade was also looking to help Australian companies make further inroads into non-government market segments, Sullivan said.

"We also have an ICT team in the US, which is looking at areas such as financial services, e-learning, gaming and wireless," he said. "So broadly speaking the FTA has really made it easier for Australian companies to sell to the US market."

With the market now more open, the expertise of Australian companies could soon mean some stiff competition for US-based players, Sullivan claimed.

"The capability of the Australian ICT sector is very well recognised over here," he said. "As we have a huge geography and small population we have really embraced the use of technology such as the Internet to distribute services."

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