The focus of the discussion was to draw attention to the ever-growing Australian market, which has huge untapped potential for American businesses looking to expand their reach. The panel, moderated by Brandeis IBS Dean Bruce Magid, consisted of:
- Joe Kaesshaefer, Commercial Officer at the U.S. consulate in Sydney
- Greg Selkoe, CEO of Karmaloop, a Boston-based e-commerce company which serves many foreign markets, including Australia
- Stewart Smith, senior director at DHL Express.
(From left) Joe Kaesshaefer, Greg Selkoe, and Stewart Smith
Each panelist provided a unique perspective into the relationship between the Australian and American economies, be it from the private sector, the government, or that of a small business.
Kaesshaefer pointed out that trade between Australia and America should be intuitive to business, due to the similarities between the two country’s economies and their ways of conducting business; however, companies are often dissuaded by the geographical distance, concerns about the stability of the economy, and the size of the market.
According to him, these are concerns with no basis in fact. Australia is the 11th largest export market of the U.S., and in the region only China, Japan and India have bigger economies. Additionally, Australia hasn’t seen a recession in over 21 years. With trade now being facilitated by the Free Trade Agreement – which, when ratified in 2004, removed approximately 99% of all tariffs between the two countries—Kaesshaefer says that American business should take advantage of the untapped Australian market.
“Doing trade with China, with all its trade restrictions, is like riding a unicycle with one leg in the air,” he said, “but with Australia, it’s like riding a bicycle with training wheels – it’s a good starting point for anyone.”
Companies like DHL Express are particularly well-suited to conducting business in Australia: according to Smith, a respected expert on the U.S.-Australia trade line, every member of DHL Express’ global arm is well-versed in the nuances of international trade. DHL Express, which is best known for its international mail service, also provides small and medium-sized businesses with development strategies and help expanding their reach into global markets.
Selkoe, who started Karmaloop in his parents’ basement at age 25, has now built it into the largest online street wear retailer in the world, selling over 500 brands in 45 countries. He stressed the potential of Australia consumer markets for e-commerce companies, saying that for Karmaloop it is the fastest growing market outside the U.S.
“Australia is as free trade as you can get,” he says “It’s easier to ship to Australia than it is to Canada.”