Australia a fertile ground for Chilean collaboration

Australia has become one of ProChile’s top destinations for promoting its country’s mining, equipment, technology and services (METS) sector.

ProChile, the export promotion bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has established one of its 50 offices in Sydney, New South Wales.

If that didn’t convey the importance Chile places on the Australian market, consider the four Chilean Parliament members that graced ProChile’s post at the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) last year.

The delegation was made up of the vice president of the Chamber of Deputies of Chile, Mario Venegas; Chile’s ambassador to Australia, Patricio Powell; the consulate-general of Chile in Melbourne, Felipe Cousiño; and the trade commissioner of Chile to Australia, Paula Moreno.

This goes on top of the seven Chilean mining supplier companies brought to Australia in October last year.

These companies have been filtered out from a list of nearly 100 companies that are “really good at what they do in Chile already.”

It explains the culmination of ProChile’s success at IMARC: there were 50 bilateral meetings that took place between Chilean and Australian companies.

Chile’s ambassador Powell is confident that one of the deep integrations between Chile and Australia is embedded in the mining space. While Chile is the world’s largest copper producing country, 86 per cent of the country’s export to Australia in 2017 were non-copper related.

“[This] highlights the importance of our goods and services, including the offer of mining suppliers,” trade commissioner Moreno adds.

“Given that Chile is responsible for 28 to 30 per cent of the world’s copper production – and 48 per cent of our national income comes from copper – we have quite naturally developed a strong supply base in the mining sector.”

CSIRO Mineral Resources Chile’s program director Angus McFarlane reinforces there is potential for Chile to provide a focal point for Australian mining activity in Latin America in a way that benefits both countries.

“Australian mining already has a very strong ‘brand’ in Chile,” McFarlane says, “And the METS sector boom in Australia is a trend Chile is keen to emulate.

“There is a strong technical base in Chile which, with language and time-zone or location considerations, provides a strong bridge to the rest of South America.”

Álvaro Palominos, former employee of Chile’s state-owned copper mining company Codelco, echoes this sentiment. He says Chile is quite open to collaboration with mining countries such as Australia and Canada.

“Chileans are also well developed in terms of mining capabilities. There are a lot of opportunities for mining suppliers from Australia to get our products in Latin America,” Palominos says.

With the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that has been running for 10 years between Australia and Chile, mining companies enjoy zero tariff and double tax relief. This is worthy of a celebration, according to ProChile business development manager – mining Giancarlo Tosti-Croce.

“We see what’s happening in other parts of the world today. The world is increasing tariffs and barriers,” Tosti-Croce says. “But we have to be happy we don’t have any barrier between Australia and Chile when it comes to trade. That’s the beauty of an open economy.”

Chile is not only looking to advance its position as a supplier of goods and services in Australia, but also in Canada, Mexico and Peru. And entering a different territory calls for its own set of challenges. These include language proficiency, time differences and shipping rates.

But more and more companies overcome this challenge by having a local representative working in the other country, Tosti-Croce says. In some other cases, promotional materials have been provided and company website has been written in the English language.

Time zone challenges can also be alleviated by establishing a non-disclosure agreement. And where a company recognises a long-term opportunity in the business, it may set itself up in the host country.

“As with most places, building local connections is important,” McFarlane tells Australian Mining.

“A medium to long term commitment to engaging locally is best for enabling the time needed to build reliable business networks.”

ProChile’s presence at IMARC after all confirms the country’s eagerness to share its mining suppliers’ services with Australia.

This article also appears in the February edition of Australian Mining. 

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