In-Market Insights - MIDDLE EAST, AFRICA AND TURKEY June 2020
In-Market Insights is a series of videos presented by our team from across our international network of 22 Victorian Government Trade and Investment offices (VGTIs). The series sheds light on the current state of play in key global markets and sectors. Episode five features Global Victoria’s General Manager, Kassem Younes from our VGTI office in Dubai, UAE.
Kassem shares his expert knowledge on the emerging opportunities in the MENA region for Victorian businesses.
VIDEO: Global Victoria's In-market Insights - MIDDLE EAST, AFRICA AND TURKEY June 2020
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Winter 2019 Update
As announced by the Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Trade Martin Pakula in June 2019, Victoria is a Major Partner with Australia for World Expo 2020 in Dubai. This provides a unique opportunity to showcase the best of Victorian research, innovation and creativity to international audiences.
The Expo will take place over 173 days (20 October 2020 – 10 April 2021), include 193 country pavilions and is expected to generate over 25 million visits. Victoria’s involvement will include leading delegations to relevant trade shows and fairs that coincide with the expo, as well as opportunities to be involved in Australia’s cultural program.
Several Victorian businesses have already been engaged by the Expo 2020 organisers to deliver projects:
- GHD has been engaged to design the fire, ambulance and police facility
- Woods Bagot is the infrastructure design consultant for the Conference and Exhibition Centre Campus
- Cox Architects is the design consultant for the Opportunity Pavilion
- Aconex will design the IT Document Management System
- Rosterfy won the contract to provide an event workforce management solution platform, to support Expo 2020 employees and volunteers.
Victorian companies have also been engaged to by DFAT to work on the Australian Pavilion:
- Icon/Acorn Alliance will deliver the marketing and communications strategy for Australia’s presence at Expo
- Schiavello will be the official furniture supplier for the Australian Pavilion
- Melbourne-based event management company IVG has partnered with Thinkwell Group to form TVG, which will operate the Australian Pavilion for the six months of Expo.
Want to know more?
For more information, visit our Expo 2020 webpage.
Victoria punches above its weight in food exports to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
Victoria is the largest agriculture producer in Australia and MENA and Turkey are important markets for our food exports. In 2018, Victorian businesses supplied $1 billion worth of food products to the region. The products exported range from meat, sheep meat and beef, cheese and other dairy products, grains and pulses, vegetables, fruits and nuts and prepared foods. Sheep meat, predominantly lamb, accounts for 55 per cent of all Victorian exports to the region (valued at A$555 million). In each of the top 10 MENA sheep meat markets, Victoria has over 50 per cent share, with one, Iran, at over 86 per cent.
Increase in UAE education infrastructure spending presents opportunities for Victoria
The Victorian Government Trade and Investment Office (VGTI) in Dubai is observing an increase in United Arab Emirates (UAE) government spending on research and development with international partners. In 2018 the education sector received Dh10.4bn (US$2.8bn) from the federal budget to help build better infrastructure and improve research facilities. The VGTI is exploring the opportunities this is creating Victorian universities.
UAE expands list of taxable products
The UAE Cabinet has announced an expansion of the excise taxable products to include sweetened beverages and electronic smoking devices starting on 1 January 2020. A tax of 50 per cent will be levied on any product with added sugar or other sweeteners including beverages, liquids, concentrates, powders, extracts or any product that may be converted to a drink. Beverages exempt from this new tax include ready-to-drink beverages that
- contain at least 75 per cent milk or milk substitutes
- are consumed for special dietary needs
- are consumed for medical use and
- baby formula or food
Electronic smoking devices and the liquids used in them will attract a tax of 100 per cent, whether they contain nicotine or tobacco or not. The UAE Government states that this decision aims to reduce the consumption of products that are harmful to human health and the environment.
New opportunities for connection between Victoria and Israel in biomed and fintech
The Minister for Priority Precincts, Gavin Jennings announced that an Israel liaison officer will be based at Parkville’s Biomedical Precinct as part of a grant between the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions and Melbourne University. The liaison officer will work across Victoria’s entire biomedical sector, including other universities, research institutes and industry to support research collaboration and commercialisation opportunities within the Victorian and Israeli biomedical sectors.
In late June 2019, the Young Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce ran a fintech trade mission for a group of emerging leaders from Australia. The delegation was led by Charlotte Petris, co-founder and CEO of Victorian based company Timelio, Australia’s leading invoice and supply chain finance platform. Charlotte is also a member of the Australian Government’s FinTech Advisory Board. Throughout the mission delegates had the opportunity to connect and collaborate with young Israeli entrepreneurs and learn about new technologies and innovations coming out of Israel including blockchain, cryptocurrency, cyber security and payment fraud and more.
The Australian Government responds to events t in the Strait of Hormuz
Tensions have heightened in the Strait of Hormuz, an important shipping lane for crude oil. In response, the US and UK have bolstered their naval presence in the region. In August 2019, the Prime Minister announced that Australia will be joining the US led coalition in the Persian Gulf on a six-month mission.
The events have not substantially impacted Victoria’s trade in the region at this stage. The Dubai VGTI will continue to work with DFAT to monitor the situation.
Spring 2018 Update
Following the withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, US Departments and Agencies implemented 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods for various activities involving Iran.
The 180-day wind-down period, which covered the shipping, finance and insurance sectors in addition to petroleum-related transactions, ended on November 4, 2018. All remaining sanctions that had been lifted or waived by the US pursuant to the JCPOA came back into full effect on November 5, 2018. In August 2018, President Donald Trump announced that companies doing business in Iran would also be barred from trading with the US. Waivers to such secondary sanctions have been granted to a select group of countries to allow them to temporarily continue to import crude oil from Iran without penalty, however, the Iranian economy is predicted to experience a downward trajectory as oil exports fall.
The lifting of sanctions under JCPOA has generated economic growth in Iran (mainly due to increased oil revenues), making the country a promising emerging market for Victorian goods and services. In the 2017-18 financial year, Victorian merchandise exports to Iran jumped to AU$99.7M from AU$25M in 2016-2017 and AU$18M in 2015-2016. Australia continues to fully implement the United Nations Security Council sanctions regime in relation to Iran and suspended certain autonomous sanctions in January 2016. Australia’s sanctions regime remains unaffected by the US decision to withdraw from the JCPOA. Victorian businesses are advised to seek private legal advice on the impact of US sanctions on their specific interests.
Foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran agreed in September 2018 to establish a financial vehicle in the European Union to facilitate payments for Iranian imports and exports. EU Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini, also stated that the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) may be open to other international partners, however, registration of the vehicle and details of its location and participants are yet to be finalised. Once operationalised, such a vehicle could facilitate the export of Victorian products and services in a range of key sectors including agriculture, mining, education, healthcare and ICT.
Expo 2020 Dubai: upcoming tenders
The focus for Expo 2020 Dubai procurement activities is shifting from construction and design to operations and visitor experience-related services. Over the next six to twelve months, Expo 2020 Dubai will procure a range of products and services related to content and programming (commissioned artwork, logistics, technical production, stage production, talent booking), hospitality, food retail, ceremonies production, event operations (contact centre, fleet management, guest services, uniforms), security (CCTV, scanners), waste management and ICT (software systems and platforms, systems integration, ticketing), protocol services, marketing and public relations.
Expo 2020 Dubai is actively seeking the participation of foreign (non-Emirati) companies and SMEs in the provision of these products and services. Any Expo 2020 contract worth over 1 million Emirati Dirhams is open to companies based anywhere in the world. For SMEs, Expo 2020 Dubai is offering incentives such as higher advanced payments (25 per cent for services and 50 per cent for goods and materials), shorter payment periods (30 days from receipt of an approved invoice) and waivers removing obligations to provide advance payment guarantees and tender bonds.
Victorian companies with experience in the delivery of major events are well placed to provide services to the Expo and are encouraged to register on the Expo 2020 Dubai e-Sourcing Portal.
As reported in the Autumn 2018 update, the Australian Government has confirmed that it will participate in Expo 2020. Opportunities to supply the Australian Government will be advertised on Austender.
Expo Live Innovation Impact Grant Programme: final cycle now open
Applications for the fourth and final cycle of the Expo Live Innovation Impact Grant Programme close on 2 December 2018. The Programme awards grants of up to US$100,000 (of an allocated US$100 million) to innovators with creative solutions to challenges faced by communities and/or the environment and is open to individual entrepreneurs, SMEs, non-profit organisations and government entities. Expo Live is looking for projects that are already having an impact but need support to reach their full potential. Successful projects will be showcased in the lead-up to Expo 2020 Dubai, providing Victorian innovators with the opportunity to showcase their products on the international stage.
Seventy innovators from 42 countries have been awarded grants thus far. Successful projects can be viewed on the Expo Live website and include fintech, agritech and medtech solutions.
The Nassib border crossing between Jordan and Syria reopened to people and goods in October following the Syrian Government’s retaking control of the area in July. The crossing lies on a transit route used previously by hundreds of trucks each day to transport goods between Turkey and Lebanon and the countries of the Gulf. Its reopening will facilitate the transport of goods to markets across the region at a much-reduced cost. The opening is also expected to increase tourism in the region as overland travel agencies recommence operation.
Israel also opened the Quneitra crossing in October, four years after its closure. For the time being, the crossing can only be used by United Nations Disengagement Observer Force personnel.
Winter 2018 Update
On May 8, 2018, the United States announced that it would withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the multilateral agreement between the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Germany, the European Union and Iran.
JCPOA was designed to limit Iran’s nuclear program, in return for which Iran was granted relief from certain United Nations, EU and US sanctions. As a result of the US withdrawal, almost all of the US sanctions waived or lifted in 2016 will be reinstated. The EU, including the JCPOA parties Germany, France and the UK, advised they have decided to abide by the commitments under JCPOA, so long as Iran respects its obligations.
While the Australian government will also abide by UNSC Resolution 2231 which recognises the agreement under the JCPOS, the actions of the US could have a direct and indirect impact on the current bilateral trade and investment relations between Iran and Victoria. The Australian Government is encouraging Australian businesses to examine and take legal advice on implications of re-established domestic sanctions by the United States.
Expo 2020 Dubai Opportunity
As reported in a previous update, the 2020 World Expo in Dubai will be run from 20 October 2020 to April 2021, the first World Expo to take place in the Middle East, Africa or South Asia.
In October this year, the 2020 Expo committee will again be calling for innovative proposals under its Innovation Impact Grants scheme. Entrepreneurs, SMEs, NGOs and government entities are invited to submit proposals for innovative solutions that can improve people’s lives or preserve the planet or both. Companies could be eligible for up to USD100,000 if their project is chosen by the Expo 2020 team and their project showcased at Expo 2020 Dubai.
For more information see https://www.expo2020dubai.com/expo-live/Innovation#innovation-impact-grant-programme
Autumn 2018 Update
On 26 March 2018, the Australian Government announced it would participate in the 2020 World Expo in Dubai. Running from 20 October 2020 to April 2021, this will be the first World Expo to take place in the Middle East, Africa or South Asia. Expo 2020’s theme of Connecting Minds, Creating the Future
will explore how global challenges can be addressed through the interlinking themes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. It's expected that around 25 million visitors will attend and that 70 per cent will come from outside the UAE, the largest proportion of international visitors in World Expo
Procurement by the Australian Government and Expo 2020 provide opportunities for Victorian companies to win business in the UAE, showcase their capabilities to a global audience and build their reputation within the Middle East and North Africa. Expo 2020 has earmarked 20% of its Dh25 billion budget
for contracts with SMEs, providing a unique opportunity for smaller companies to access the market.
Opportunities exist in:
- Services – architectural, engineering, urban planning, facilities management, consultancy services and training (retail, food logistics, service delivery).
- Innovation – liveability and sustainability, clean energy, waste management, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, health, R&D and transport.
- Food and beverages – premium food and beverage products, solutions to food waste and food packaging.
Opportunities to supply the Australian Government will be advertised on AusTender. As at 3 April 2018, there is currently an open tender for Lead Consultant Services (Pavilion Design & Architecture).
Opportunities to supply goods and services to Expo 2020 are advertised on the Expo Procurement Portal. Tenders are open to companies from around the world, and SMEs are encouraged to apply.
Start-ups with innovative ideas may wish to apply for the next round of Expo 2020’s Innovation Impact Programme (IIP). IIP funds novel and innovative solutions which support the Expo’s key themes, such as opportunity, mobility and sustainability.
Summer 2018 Update
New Value Added Tax (VAT) Scheme for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
On 1 January 2018, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) implemented a new Value Added Tax (VAT) scheme at a standard rate of 5 per cent. Other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have also committed to introducing VAT. However, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar have delayed implementation until at least 2019.
The diplomatic standoff between Qatar and a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates continues to drive government investment in food security. In addition to continued demand for reliable sources of food and beverage imports, governments in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are investing in projects to increase local production, such as Oman’s announcement of a new 25,000 head dairy worth US$260 million.
- Victorian food and beverage exporters can expect to see continued interest from buyers in the Middle East & North Africa.
- There are opportunities for water management and agricultural businesses to export goods and services to support GCC projects which build domestic production capabilities.
- Victoria is well positioned to attract further investment into farms and food processing sites, as GCC states look to secure supply chains.
In December 2017, the Victorian Government announced new initiatives to strengthen trade, investment and institutional ties between Victoria and Israel. This includes plans to establish a Trade and Investment Office in Tel Aviv, a new Biomedical Innovation and Commercialisation Exchange program and an exclusive agreement with the Israel Australia Chamber of Commerce to provide targeted in-market support for Victoria. In addition to new initiatives, Victorian organisations can still access funding through the Victoria-Israel Science Innovation and Technology Scheme (VISITS).
Implications for Victoria include:
- Improved access for Victorian exports to market intelligence, advice and introductions in the Israeli market.
- Greater profile in-market for Victoria’s world-class capabilities in key sectors such as health and medtech; water management and agtech; cyber security and defence; and digital technologies.
- An additional avenue to identify and engage with Israeli partners in biomedical research and commercialisation projects.