RMIT: New report aims to strengthen Victoria’s connections with Southeast Asia

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A new report out of the RMIT Asia Trade and Innovation Hub has made 19 recommendations designed to strengthen Victoria’s connections with the countries of Southeast Asia.

The report — Hands Across the Sea – Strengthening Victoria’s connections with Southeast Asia — provides a roadmap for business and government as they seek to deepen relationships with Southeast Asian countries and strengthen Victoria’s participation in the region following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Led by the Australian APEC Study Centre at RMIT, as an RMIT Asia Trade and Innovation Hub publication, in partnership with the Asia Society Australia and experts from RMIT’s College of Business and Law (COBL) and School of Global, Urban and Social Studies (GUSS), the report’s recommendations include:
the establishment of a Victoria – Southeast Asia Taskforce to articulate a fresh approach to trading in the region, bringing together Victorian business, research institutes and policymakers;

identifying digital policy opportunities and needs in priority ASEAN markets to tap into the digital transformation across the Southeast Asian region;

supporting the establishment of supply chain councils that bring together the participants involved in the operation of global value chains (GVCs) to facilitate cooperation among government agencies to ensure GVCs operate efficiently;

building investment in the green industries of the future, including by supporting greater collaboration on standards for renewable energy in the region and by leading coordinated approaches with other states and territories;

enhancing labour mobility, including by connecting Victorian businesses with initiatives for mutual recognition of professional services and educational qualifications with ASEAN bodies.

Director of the Australian APEC Study Centre, Dr Craig Emerson, said the report is intended to be a starting point for a high-level discussion on how Victoria and Southeast Asian countries can strengthen linkages in the post-COVID trade landscape.
Emerson said: “The post-COVID trade landscape presents opportunities to tap into the digital transformation that is happening in Southeast Asian countries, build market diversification and supply chain resilience and grow the green industries of the future.
“But businesses and governments need new strategies to build more resilient and diversified markets, input sources and investment relationships, and that’s where the report’s recommendations can help.”
Executive Director of Policy at Asia Society Australia, Richard Maude agrees the changing trade environments mean there is an opportunity for existing relationships and new investments in Southeast Asian countries to be consolidated and expanded, particularly across industries of the future.
“The pandemic has brought into sharp relief the importance of health and energy security in the region. Victoria can, for example, draw on its long-established health research infrastructure and its developing expertise in clean-energy and associated technologies to build new regional partnerships,” he said.

“Victoria is also well-placed to expand its existing edtech solutions into the region where there is growing demand and an opportunity for greater recognition of professional qualifications between Australia and Southeast Asian economies to fill skills shortages and imbalances.”

The report was funded by the Victorian Government under the Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund (VHESIF), as part of the RMIT Asia Trade and Innovation Hub.

The Hub is a partnership between RMIT University and Asia Society Australia, and was officially launched in July alongside Asia Society Australia’s new headquarters, located at RMIT’s CBD campus in Melbourne.

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