Accidental exporters

HELPING Australian mining technology players stop being “accidental exporters” and really start to make the most of their opportunities has become a key role for export agency Austrade.
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Austrade trade manager, resources & energy Dr Nicholas Baker.

Noel Dyson

Austrade trade manager, resources & energy Dr Nicholas Baker told at AIMEX that the agency had made mining equipment, technology and services a particular focus.
One of the key ways the agency does that is through encouraging Australian companies to participate in international trade shows. To help alleviate the costs of doing that it sets up pavilions at these shows that let the players take part without having to wear the full cost of a booth.
Austrade has set up the largest country pavilion “by far” at the African Mining Indaba.
That show has traditionally been a more finance-focussed show with lots of junior miners.
However, times have changed and Baker said of late the show had taken on much more of a METS focus.
On the expo front it also sets up pavilions at South American shows such as Expomin and Exponor.
Baker said mining had always been one of Austrade’s key trade teams.
“Maybe how we’re doing it is a bit different these days,” he said.
“More now than ever the need is there. Companies in Queensland and Western Australia are really hurting and they are looking for export assistance.”
Baker said the huge Chinese presence at AIMEX was a “wake-up call to the industry”.
However, he said Austrade took a different approach to its stands.
Baker said instead of the “battery hen” approach of multiple stands the Chinese delegation had taken at the Australian show, Austrade preferred to have more open pavilions concentrating on business to business meetings.
At AIMEX the focus has been on bringing international delegations to see what Australian METS players have to offer.
Austrade has had 100 Australian companies arrange meetings with international visitors at the show.
Besides the massive Chinese presence at AIMEX, Germany, India, France and Chile have also had strong presences. The US has also been waving the flag.
Baker said Austrade was taken a three-pronged approach to helping METS players grow their international business opportunities.
The first is to make the most of their opportunities at trade shows. That means trying to maximise business to business meetings and making sure they are meeting with the right people.
The second area is to bring inward missions to Australia.
Austrade brings in mining procurement people interested in what Australia has to offer.
“Sometimes that’s organised by the [Austrade] people in the various posts [around the world] but other times it happens almost organically,” Baker said.
As an example he points to the interest shown in Australian safety and mining technologies by the Turkish government in the wake of the 2014 Soma mining disaster.
That led to a Turkish delegation meeting with, among others in Australia, Queensland government safety agency Simtars.
Besides Australia the Turkish delegation also turned to Germany and Canada but it had been particularly interested in Australia’s technology and safety practises.
The third point is to make the best of the opportunities that can arise from Austrade’s international posts.
“In Santiago our representative there received an expression of interest to supply a mine with what they were seeking,” Baker said.
Austrade works with METS sector support group Austmine to try and maximise on those sort of opportunities.
Baker said Austrade was also targeting multinational mining companies to try and tout the benefits of using Australian players.
One of the benefits Australian METS players have is that many of those multinationals already have operations in Australia.
That, however, can lead to another problem.
Baker said while the Australian METS sector was a burgeoning export player, many of the companies within it had become “accidental exporters”.
He explained that those companies often got into exporting through supplying a global miner with a product at one of their Australian operations. From there the miner asks them to perhaps supply its operation in Mongolia with the same and it grows from there.
Great deal for the company in question until the reality hits of the extra work required to maintain that deal. Before they know it, the client is unhappy and the work is gone.
Baker quoted a recent Austmine survey that said about 80% of Australia’s METS players were exporters.
However, he believes many of those companies need to be more strategic.
“They have to make sure they choose the right market,” Baker said.
“The price has to be competitive. They have to offer a tailored solution at a good price.
“We say don’t go to one mining show in any one country and expect to win deals.
“You have to support your distributors with the right material.
“You have to make sure they are at the right shows.
“The most successful companies that do that right are the ones that are still in business now.”
There is no doubting the quality of what Australian METS players can offer and Baker gave an example of a Vietnamese Department of Mines and Energy delegation that visited Australia.
“They have a relationship with China and use Chinese METS equipment but they prefer Australian equipment because it lasts longer and they get the after sales service,” he said.
“They realise it will save them more.”
Baker recommended METS players looking to export band together with likeminded players in their preferred market sector.
He said Austrade worked closely with Austmine and would continue to do so.
“They [Austmine] help people grow into domestic supply chains and incubate them,” Baker said.
“We help the [global] markets according to what they do.”