Forum looks to strengthen links with Gulf states

30 August 2012

The University of Sydney has a number of joint projects with universities in the Gulf region.
The University of Sydney has a number of joint projects with universities in the Gulf region.

Australia's growing links with the Gulf region will be discussed at an international forum at the University this Wednesday 5 September.

The forum will be attended by speakers from 11 Gulf universities and agencies. It will include seminar sessions on food and water security, energy, health, Islamic finance, robotics, support for international students from the Gulf region, and women in leadership.

Keynote speakers are Mark Paterson, Director General of NSW Trade and Investment, Lynette Wood from the Middle East branch of DFAT, and Michael Yabsley, Chief Executive of the Australia Gulf Council.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor International, Professor John Hearn, said: "The forum is an opportunity to raise awareness of the expanding relationship between Australia and the countries of the Gulf region. We hope it will bring an exchange of information on major themes of interest and develop projects and initiatives in education, science and research."

The University has joint research projects with Gulf universities in food and water security, health and energy. More than 200 students are enrolled at Sydney from the six Gulf Cooperation Council states - Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The majority are government-sponsored students from Saudi Arabia, with engineering and IT, medicine, health sciences and science the most popular degree subjects.

The Sydney students are among 22,000 students from the Middle East studying in Australia, which in turn forms part of a two-way trade with the Middle East worth $13 billion per year.

In 2010, four out of every five cars exported from Australia went to the Gulf, with a total value of nearly $1.5 billion. Saudi Arabia was the biggest single export market in the world for Australian cars.

But Australia's biggest export partner in the region is the United Arab Emirates. More than 300 Australian companies are based in the UAE and there is a large expat community of 15,000 Australians.

Diplomatic links between Australia and the Gulf have been strengthened, with Kevin Rudd signing an agreement to set up a strategic dialogue with the GCC in 2011. Foreign Minister Bob Carr has visited Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the last three months.

Speaking at a business forum in June, Trade Secretary Justine Elliot said: "It is vital for Australia that we lift our engagement with the Middle East.

"In the century ahead, with a more engaged, powerful and influential Asia, the Middle East will be an essential partner, and a market of immense opportunity."

There are also 370,000 Australians of Arab descent, and Arabic is the fourth most spoken language in Australia.

Friday's forum is part of the Sydney World Program series of events organised by the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor International. For more information contact Sandra Margon, Regional Manager for the Middle East.

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