The Hon Philip Dalidakis MP - travel report - Myanmar & Thailand, 12 -20 August 2017

Minister The Hon. Philip Dalidakis MP
Portfolio Minister for Small Business, Innovation, and Trade
Countries visited Myanmar and Thailand
Date of travel 12 - 20 August 2017
No. of official travel days
(including day of departure and day of return)
Number of accompanying ministerial staff 1
Accompanied by spouse in an official capacity No
Funding for the overseas trip was paid by (list department/s or agency) Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
Air fares (including taxes and fees) $8,237.00*
Accommodation (including taxes and fees) $4,091.00*
Other expenses (includes surface travel and travel allowances) $4,889.00*
Travel cost for minister and staff $17,217.00*

*The above costs are not final and complete

Purpose of travel

I travelled to Myanmar and Thailand from 12 to 20 August 2017. The purpose of my travel was to:

  • build relationships for trade and investment and identify opportunities for collaboration and partnership;
  • position Victoria as a genuine partner with Myanmar and Thailand as these two important ASEAN countries increasingly look outward for products and expertise;
  • raise the profile of Victoria in Myanmar and Thailand and promote Victoria's priority sectors.

Victoria enjoys strong relationships with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries. A diverse and economically dynamic region, the countries of South East Asia make up Victoria's second largest trading partner.

Thailand is currently Victoria's 15th largest export destination, with exports valued at $446.6 million in 2016. Over the last four decades, Thailand has made remarkable progress in social and economic development, moving from a low-income country to an upper-income country. Thailand 4.0 is the country's ambitious plan to transform itself from a production-based to services-based economy. As part of this drive, Thai organisations are seeking solutions and partnerships that will enhance their market position, technical capabilities or operational effectiveness. This presents significant trade and investment potential for Victoria to deepen business engagement with Thailand across our priority sectors.

Thailand is also an important market for international education. It is ranked 5th as a source market for Victoria and there has been significant growth in student enrolments from Thailand over the last five years. In 2016, over 7000 Thai students studied in Victoria.

Myanmar is a significant emerging market with many countries seeking to establish connections to facilitate market entry as the country opens up to trade and foreign investment. Since the commencement of reforms in 2011, Myanmar has experienced a high level of economic growth, with growth at 6.5 per cent in 2016-17 and predicted to average 7.1 per cent over the next three years. This growth, coupled with a youthful population and extensive resource base, offers significant potential for Victoria especially in areas where Victoria has a strong international profile including mining services, infrastructure, education, health and agribusiness.

Benefits of travel to the State of Victoria

As the first Victorian Minister ever to visit Myanmar and the first Thai speaking Australian Minister to visit Thailand, the visit has helped to open doors and to build deeper connections with these two important countries.

My program in Myanmar and Thailand included 25 meetings, events, panel discussions and media interviews. I worked in cooperation with Commonwealth agencies and included DFAT and Austrade in key meetings. My program enabled me to engage with a variety of important stakeholders including, senior Government officials, business leaders, students and alumni.

Strengthening Government to Government connections and networks

I held meetings with five senior Ministers, demonstrating the level of interest in the relationship between our regions and the potential for shared learnings and future collaboration:

  • In Myanmar's capital Nay Pyi Taw, I met with the Myanmar Deputy Union Minister for Education and three senior Government officials. We discussed the Myanmar Government's priorities for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and Victoria's world class TVET capabilities in helping to meet these needs. I was honoured to deliver to the Deputy Minister an offer for the Victorian Government to fund a visit by Melbourne Polytechnic to deliver a pilot 'train the trainer' style program in Myanmar.
  • In Nay Pyi Taw, I attended a meeting with Myanmar's Deputy Minister for Commerce and four senior Government officials. We discussed opportunities to increase two way trade between Myanmar and Victoria.
  • In Bangkok, I met with Thailand's Minister for Commerce and three senior Government officials. We discussed Thailand and Victoria's very positive trade engagement and ways to reinvigorate the Thai-Victorian business relationship in the lead up to the removal of tariffs under the Thailand Australia Free Trade Agreement in 2020. We also shared our learnings about building SMEs and enabling them to be globally connected.
  • I attended a meeting with Thailand's Minister for Digital Economy & Society and the Secretary of Department. We engaged in productive discussions about digital disruption and the role of Government in balancing innovation and regulation objectives. We shared our learnings on fostering a healthy start up ecosystem and on the taxi and ride share industries.
  • I met with Thailand's Vice Minister for Education and four senior Government officials. We discussed Thailand's education priorities under the Thailand 4.0 plan, particularly around boosting Vocational Education and Training and English Language Training. We identified shared challenges, such as delivering for regional areas, and discussed the opportunities for online training.
  • While in Nay Pyi Taw, I also visited the Parliament of Myanmar to gain a deeper understanding the parliamentary processes of this emerging democracy.

Business engagement to further develop trade and investment ties

I attended a number of business meetings and events in Myanmar and Thailand which enabled me to promote Victoria's priority sectors and further trade and investment opportunities:

  • In both Myanmar and Thailand I attended business luncheons hosted by the respective Australian Ambassador. At the Ambassador's luncheon in Myanmar I met with ten businesses from the banking, aviation, retail, innovation and university sectors and discussed the already strong trade and alumni ties with Victoria. At the Ambassador's luncheon in Thailand I met with ten companies from the logistics, food, retail, tourism and hospitality sectors to discuss their significant business engagement with Victoria and the opportunities to grow these connections. In both Myanmar and Thailand, participants raised further opportunities for trade and investment that will be pursued by the Department.
  • I attended Victorian Connection networking events in both Yangon and Bangkok. The events were attended by Victorian alumni, members from the Australian Chambers, food and agri importers, and other key stakeholders. There were 120 attendees in Myanmar and 140 attendees in Thailand.
  • I signed two Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) for the Victorian Government with the AusCham chapters in Myanmar and Thailand to further the state's trade and investment opportunities with these important ASEAN nations. The MoU's will assist in deepening business engagement and market access with Myanmar and Thailand and will provide more opportunities for collaboration in Victoria's key priority sectors.

Boosting Victoria's Education and Training Exports

  • During my visit to Thailand I delivered a presentation at Mahidol University to students, staff and the wider business community on Social Enterprise and the Establishment of an Inclusive Society in Australia. I networked with students, including several Victorian alumni, during the morning tea reception.
  • I witnessed an MoU signing between Melbourne Polytechnic and Panyapiwat Institute of Management (PIM) and attended a campus tour of PIM, Thailand's first and largest corporate university. The MoU is for a twinning program in Thailand in the field of culinary training. Thai students will be able to receive both a Thai certificate and an Australian certificate for their qualification and can pathway to a Diploma and Bachelor in Hospitality Management at Melbourne Polytechnic in Australia.
  • I visited a training session being delivered by VicRoads and the Victorian training provider, Safe System Solutions. The training on road safety auditing was being delivered for the Thailand Department of Rural Roads to students from two Thai universities. Safe Systems Solutions is providing training to nine Thai universities in total and delivering 'train the trainer' courses to 76 Thai provincial road authorities. Victoria's skills and regulatory environment in this area are viewed as world leading.
  • I engaged directly with a number of key Victorian alumni at the Victorian Connection events and Ambassadors' luncheons.

Positioning Victoria as Australia's innovation and tech hub

  • I visited an innovation lab, Phandeeyar, which is spearheading the development of Myanmar's tech ecosystems and training new entrepreneurs to build a pool of tech talent. We discussed potential collaborative opportunities with Launch Vic and the start-up ecosystem in Victoria.
  • I participated in two panel forums on innovation. In Myanmar I was a panellist for the Victorian Connection Panel Forum: Innovation in the Digital Economy and in Thailand I was a panel member on the AusCham Thailand – Victorian Connection Panel Forum: Digital Innovation in the Hospitality Industry. There were 100 attendees at the event in Myanmar and 110 in Thailand.
  • As mentioned above, I also met with Thailand's Minister for Digital Economy & Society to discuss digital disruption.

Strengthening Victoria's Food Exports to the Region

  • In Myanmar, I attended a meeting with the Chief Executive Officer of City Mart Holding. City Mart is Myanmar's largest retailer and has been trading with Victoria for 17 years, particularly in dairy and dry goods. We discussed consumer preferences in Myanmar and the impressive range of over 60 Victorian products already stocked by City Mart. We also explored further opportunities for Victorian products in City Mart stores, particularly for red meat and horticultural products. I was delighted to visit one of their stores and see firsthand the prominence of premium Victorian food products.
  • At the Ambassador's luncheon in Myanmar, I met with Apex, a leading food service supplier in Myanmar. We discussed their desire to source additional Victorian ingredients and opportunities to further engage with Victorian producers.
  • I attended a meeting with Charoen Pokphand Foods (CP Foods). CP Foods is Asia's foremost and one of the world's largest fully integrated food companies. CP Foods is already a significant investor in Victoria with its Asia Pacific Headquarters in Docklands, Victoria. At the meeting we discussed CP Foods' priorities for Australia and Victoria and explored ways to further collaborate in the food and agriculture sector. I welcomed further investment in Victoria and the opportunity to work together on the promotion of Victorian produce.
  • In Bangkok, I met with senior representatives from Central Food (CF), a premium modern retail supermarket chain in Thailand, and toured one of their supermarkets. I was impressed by the luxury shopping experience and by the number of Victorian products it stocked. We discussed CF's plans to source additional Victorian product and options for potential in-store promotion of Victorian products.

Victorian Excellence in the Region

  • Outside of Bangkok, I met with the Victorian company Linfox and toured their impressive warehousing and distribution facility. Linfox vehicles currently drive 235 million kilometres each year across Thailand and in 2018 they will celebrate the 20th anniversary of their operations in Thailand. I met with their local team to discuss their operations, training programs, safety processes and the introduction of innovative technologies which are driving better business efficiency, health and environmental outcomes.

Raising the profile of Victoria through Media Engagement

  • I participated in a 50-minute Facebook live interview with Suthichai Yoon, founder of The Nation – one of the leading English speaking newspapers in Thailand. The interview was conducted in both Thai and English and as at 15 September had received over 20,000 views, 62 shares, 485 engagements and 113 comments. Several trade enquiries were registered as a result of the interview and the possibility of continuing a regular segment featuring Victorian business was also raised. These opportunities will be pursued by my Department.
  • I was also interviewed in both Thai and English by the Bangkok Post newspaper and Channel 3 television on Victoria's capabilities and trade and investment strengths.

My visit to Myanmar and Thailand reaffirmed the significant opportunities for increased trade engagement with these countries and that Victoria is well placed to progress these opportunities. Victorian products and expertise are recognised in the region as world class. There is significant brand recognition, particularly in the food and education and training sectors, and strong demand for premium Victorian products.

The trip opened dialogue in key areas of interest in these two important ASEAN nations and encouraged the reinvigoration of the Thai and Victorian business relationship in the lead up to the removal of tariffs under the Thailand Australia Free Trade Agreement in 2020.

There are now many opportunities for increased trade with Myanmar and Thailand, with many positive examples and connections to build on. In both countries, I experienced the warmth of their people towards Victoria, coupled with strong entrepreneurial cultures and a willingness to grow engagement, not only in developing greater ties between us, but also in the potential to work together more broadly across ASEAN

Next Steps / Follow Up

The department will continue to follow up on the trade and investment opportunities that arose from the connections made on my visit to Myanmar and Thailand:

  • The significant opportunities for increasing Victoria's food exports into the region, particularly for premium products and dairy, will continue to be explored and pursued. The suppliers and supermarket chains I met with in Myanmar and Thailand have been invited to attend Victoria's Food and Beverage Trade Week in October and the department will continue to work directly with them to facilitate increased food exports for Victorian companies.
  • The Victorian Commissioner for South East Asia will work with Myanmar's Ministry of Commerce to identify trade shows and events that Victoria could consider for company participation to increase our engagement in the region and connect our companies.
  • Melbourne Polytechnic will work with Myanmar's Ministry of Education to deliver a 'train the trainer' program in Myanmar. Key Government officials from Myanmar's Ministry of Education have also been invited to Melbourne to learn more about Victoria's TVET excellence.
  • The department will work with Thailand's Minister for Digital Economy & Society to share learnings from Victoria's experience in balancing innovation and regulation in disruptive technologies and innovative industries.
  • Phandeeyar Myanmar Innovation Lab has been introduced to Launch Vic and they will work together to explore potential partnerships.
  • The department will continue to work together with AusCham Myanmar and AusCham Thailand to deliver on the MoUs that were signed and drive further business outcomes for Victorian companies.
  • Opportunities to further raise the profile of Victoria through media engagement in Thailand will also be explored.

Page last updated: 10 November 2017