Building the ties that bind


When heads of government gather to discuss global policy, almost as much goes on behind the scenes as in the high level meetings.

Amid the formal meetings at APEC Russia 2012, near Vladivostok in September last year, a group of business people and politicians gathered for the inaugural meeting of the Australia Russia Dialogue - an idea conceived when Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov visited Australia last year.

Australians involved in the Australia-Russia Dialogue include economist lawyer and former BHP Billion senior executive John Fast, CEO of Tigers Realm Coal Craig Parry, political scientist and former non-executive Chairman of Dow Chemical (Australia) Tom Harley and former senator and Liberal government minister Robert Hill. Although geographically distant, Russia and Australia have a lot to share in terms of business, education and culture.

Russia is in need of infrastructure, and Australia’s experience in delivering infrastructure across geographic and funding hurdles could be put to good use there.

Most importantly, the number of Australians of Russian extraction runs into hundreds of thousands – this is a resource in itself, asking to be put to good use.

Members of the dialogue hope to establish a range of interactions that currently don’t exist, such as the exchange of ideas and academics between Russian and Australian universities – in the areas, for example, of medicine, engineering and culture.

They also hope to initiate business contacts between companies engaged in enterprises with mutual interests.

The opportunities in mining in Russia are well known, but this is just one of many areas where there are opportunities for Australian collaboration.

Other areas include trade, agriculture, manufacturing, performing arts and tourism.

The dialogue is open to membership from individuals, companies and professional organisations alike.

A number of meetings have been held already, with the input and approval of Kevin Rudd, foreign minister at the time of the APEC meeting, and Bob Carr, the current minister for foreign affairs.

It’s not just about business; it’s about like minded people fostering relationships between two countries.

John W.H. Denton is a Prime Ministerial representative on the APEC Business Advisory Council.

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