Polyglot Group has been doing business with international & multicultural companies based in more than 50 countries all around the world for over 20 years.
In celebration of these partnerships, we will be promoting bilateral trades by interviewing some of the key players. Keen to know more about the current challenges faced by the countries we are representing such as Latin America, Europe, Asia & the US, we are thrilled to share our interview with Rob Grant, President of the Australia Brazil Chamber of Commerce (ABCC).
Can you please introduce yourself and your organisation?
I’m Rob Grant and I’m currently the President of the Australia Brazil Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) – a role I’ve held since about October 2015.
Founded in 1978, the ABCC is one of Australia’s oldest bilateral trade associations. At large, ABCC’s primary mission is to further the interests of our members and deepen the commercial relationship between Australia and Brazil.
Our purpose is to help businesses who wish to expand from Brazil to Australia, and vice versa. Our reach is nation-wide, and as such, we have branches in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Adelaide, with each office having individual directors and members.
The ABCC works closely with the other bilateral associations to collaboratively achieve mutual interests. These bodies include Australia-Latin America Business Council (ALABC) and the Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR).
Whilst bilateral chambers have a strong history in representing SME, the ABCC also supports larger corporate clients. This support of bigger clients is also mirrored by other bodies, such as ALABC who extends its support right across Latin America.
What type of services can you offer to Brazilian companies looking for business opportunities in Australia?
Our primary service is connecting our members to our extensive networks, including our membership base, as well as our general business networks. In doing so, we link our members to the appropriate help for their ambition.
Our diverse and experienced personnel consists of public servants for both the Australian and Brazilian governments, as well as directors of local businesses. As such, our board is a diverse one. Our directors provide expert advice across a variety of matters, from regulations, right through to accountancy and recommendations for leading consultants and partnerships. So, any organisation can access helpful information about potential partnerships.
In addition to this service, we also host and participate in events in Australia. These events are dedicated to any inbound delegations. For example, last year we collaborated with the Victorian state government in running their event hosted by ALABC.
Are you subsidised by Brazil?
The ABCC is a not-for-profit business. As such, we rely on membership subscriptions for essential funding. We are not subsidised by Brazilian Government in any way, as we are entirely non-partisan. The ABCC values independence. One of our priorities is having a stable board which is free from the influence and political viewpoints of other bodies.
You mentioned that the ABCC is membership-based. How many members do you have?
We have about 100 members in Australia. As mentioned previously, we also have a sister chamber in Brazil, which also has about 100 members. We believe the possibility of a co-membership with this sister chamber is a fantastic opportunity for the future. As such, we have been working closely with this Brazilian chamber through various collaborative efforts such as exchanging information and knowledge. We see this relationship as one of great potential.
How many Brazilian companies do you think are operating in Australia today?
There are approximately 20 Brazilian companies that have activity in Australia as part of their global network. These include large-scale companies such as JBS (meat & proteins), Vale (mining), Embraer (plane manufacturer) who sold planes to Virgin last year, as well as WEG (electric motors manufacturer). There are a number of Brazilian retail brands in Australia which are common household names, including the footwear label Havaianas, kitchenware label Tramontia as well as cosmetic leader, Natura.
“The Brazilian market is very interesting – it is home to one of the biggest economies in the world.”
Whilst the AICC does help support such large-scale companies, a majority of the Brazilian companies we encounter are smaller-scale entrepreneurs and businesses, such as importers of Brazilian products.
Australian interest in taking businesses to Brazil, due to the larger market and population of 200 million inhabitants. As such, the Brazilian market is very interesting – it is home to one of the biggest economies in the world.
What are the ABCC’s main achievements since you took office?
Since I became involved in the ABCC, we have focused on rebuilding and optimising the chamber for a better future. Part of this has been increasing the number of board members across the nation. As such, we now have Directors in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. All of these board members are enthusiastic and devoted to the chamber’s interests.
Further to this, the ABCC has established a broader secretariat, which takes care of the chambers’ administration, as well as responding to our member’s calls and technical requests.
With this solid foundation, the ABCC has organised an increasing number of regular events. These events provide our members with valuable face-to-face networking opportunities. We also invite non-members to join us at such events, in order to expand our reach in the community.
You mentioned some collaboration with the ALABC and Austrade. Did you build that relationship from scratch?
Cristina Talacko (the ABCC’s NSW Director) and I have both been directors of the ALABC in the past, and both of us have been on the board of COALAR.
In terms of our relationship with ALABC, we’ve talked regularly about upcoming events, and how we can support one another through such events.
How do you perceive the Australasian region in terms of regulations, market trends or the geography of the region, specifically from a Brazilian perspective?
Australia and Latin America have a similar economy and with similar comparative advantages. As such, the market is relatively devoid of major buyers of sellers, as the worth of the product will be similar across both markets. Therefore, the flows of capital are more investment related than trade related.
The Australian market is relative attractive to Brazilian investors and companies for a number of reasons, including its good regulatory environment and market security. Compared to the Brazilian market, the Australian market is relatively straight-forward.
In terms of business culture, are there similarities in the way Brazilians And Australians are doing business?
Judging from my previous experience (including 12 years based in Latin America), I believe there are both a lot of cultural similarities, and well as significant differences.
In regard to the similarities, both Australia and Brazil are multicultural societies’. While Brazil is not internationally sought for the same socioeconomic reasons, Brazil’s history has led to cultural diversity which is similar to that of Australia’s. Brazil also offers a lot of support and tolerance for a huge range of cultures and religions. I believe the multicultural environments in Brazil and Australia are wonderful assets for companies coming from overseas. The culturally-diverse society offers supportive networks and education for people who are new to the country.
In which industries of Australia do you see opportunities for Brazilian companies?
I see opportunity in all industries in which we have a shared comparative advantage. Such industries include agriculture as well as technology (such as mining tech).
Another promising industry is financial services. Interestingly, Latin America is currently establishing a pension system similar to that of Australia’s, meaning there’s a lot of activity in the fund management sector.
Much of Brazil’s bilateral relationship with Australia is also explained by education.
Indeed, Australia’s education system is often sought by Brazilians. In addition, Brazilians who want to learn English can benefit from full language emersion (rather than in the US, where a lot of Spanish is spoken).
Overall, So I believe that mining, agriculture, education and financial services are the key cornerstones of the market.
According to your experience, what are some of the challenges that Brazilian companies face when entering the Australian market?
One of the primary issues is the relatively small size of the Australian market. Therefore, the choice to enter the Australian market is not immediately attractive for large-scale Brazilian businesses. In addition, entry into the Australian market still requires the same level of sophistication as other developed markets (such as that of the UK, US or Europe).
Australia’s competitive environment means that Brazilian companies need to send their best people. To successfully launch within the new market, Brazilian companies should also build sound networks, carry out extensive research and source a good supply chain.
In saying this, there’s really no exceptional barriers when coming to Australia; just the usual challenges of arriving in a new market. When the right measures are taken, Brazilian companies can certainly expect success within Australia. The ABCC reiterates that Australia has a safe market with a secure economy—a stable way to expand globally.
What are the typical steps that the Brazilian companies undertake to transgress these challenges?
I believe the usual market-entry strategies are often the common way to overcome these problems. A company would typically connect with a chamber in Australia, and seek information from networking and research.
From there, b would reach out to potential partners or businesses that they would like to work with, and start a commercial conversation.
What are your opinions on a possible Free Trade Agreement between Australia and Brazil?
I see a Free Trade Agreement as something which would have a positive effect for both Australia and Brazil. Specifically, I believe both sides would benefit from investment. In addition, a double taxation agreement would avoid overlapping tax jurisdictions.
In saying that, I understand the relationship between Australia and America is not trade related, but rather, investment related. For this reason, I believe a FTA would not be a major political priority at this time.
In creating our Bilateral Trades Down Under Series, we would like to thank Rob Grant for taking the time to provide such an insightful interview.