Having completed a three and a half year assignment in Atlanta, Ian Wing, Australia’s consul general and senior trade commissioner here, will be leaving at the end of May to take up new duties in Tokyo. His successor will be Geoff Gray, who has been a senior trade promotion officer at the Australian embassy in Tokyo.
Mr. Wing told GlobalFax in an interview that he expects an easier job of marketing Australian products in Japan than in the U.S. because of his country’s huge trade surplus there. But he also anticipates a more frantic pace in one of Australia’s largest embassies that has a constant stream of ministers and officials passing through.
In the position of Minister-Counselor Commercial, Mr. Wing will be heading up the marketing program of the Australian Trade Commission.
In sharp contrast to its trading relationship with Japan, Australia has a trade deficit with the U.S. “Our exports to the U.S. have fallen dramatically,” he said. Meanwhile, trade with other Asian countries has increased, he added, now claiming 65% of Australian trade.
“We get higher prices, for example, for our seafood in Asia than we do in the U.S.,” he explained. Even oil which Australia used to export to the U.S. is now exported to Japan and Taiwan.
Mr. Wing opened the Australian consulate and trade offices here in 1993, reflecting a major and growing Australian corporate presence in Georgia, as the next Olympic host nation and home of a major Australian community.
Now that Australia’s consulate in Houston is closed, the Atlanta office will cover an area extending as far west as Oklahoma, including Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas for consular, trade and investment purposes.
Mr. Wing alluded to budget cuts undertaken following the election of a conservative government for the first time in 13 years, aimed at balancing the country’s budget in two years. While staffs are being pared down in Australia’s trade offices, a greater reliance is being placed on information technology enabling electronic notification of Australian companies to business opportunities in the U.S.
Although he may be expecting a heightened pace of activity in Tokyo, his Atlanta stay seems hardly to have been uneventful. Mr. Wing hosted seven ambassadorial and 30 federal and state ministerial visits. He said that between 50 to 60 Australian companies were introduced to the U.S. market through his office, and he estimated that the Atlanta trade office promoted some $50 million in Australian exports to the U.S. with a further $150-200 million in the pipeline.
The consulate under his leadership also was a resource for the thousands of Australians who visited Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
by Mark Pierson