Benjamin Giles commenced as commissioner for Indonesia in July 2018 and has 25 years of experience in international business, including 15 in the field of trade and investment. He also has longstanding connections to Indonesia, having previously worked in Jakarta with both the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) and the private sector. Before joining Trade and Investment Queensland, Ben worked for Austrade for 13 years, including most recently as a Senior Trade Advisor. Other previous roles have included Australian Trade Commissioner to Bangkok and a year on secondment to the Office of the Prime Minister in Canberra.
He speaks Indonesian and currently serves on the Board of the Indonesia Australia Business Council. Ben was one of the important attendees of the recent AIBC conference in Darwin. Here are his views on what happened.
What was the most important learning for you coming out of the AIBC Conference?
It was great to get back to Darwin after many years away and I immediately felt its historical closeness to Indonesia. The big takeaway for me was that the NT, and indeed Northern Australia has been true trading partners with Indonesia for centuries. It’s something the rest of Australia, and many of us living in Indonesia, still have much to learn.
What actual actions are you going to take as a result of the discussions you had there if any?
The breakout discussions were really useful because there was a perfect mix of Australian and Indonesian perspectives. I made some valuable connections with Indonesian business people and government officials. I also met several Queensland-based businesses (in education and health) and have since commenced working with them on their upcoming trips to Indonesia and their visit programs.
What are you hoping or perhaps influencing, your key partners will do to make progress better and faster?
These conferences are wonderful chances for people involved in the bilateral relationship to get together. We are all on the same page and in agreement that there should be more trade and investment between the two countries. Often it feels like the message is on repeat and few are listening, however, I will continue to promote Indonesia to companies back home and continue to encourage them and my peers to visit.
What sectors do you see as a) having the great potential for quick progress to address the huge trade shortfall, b) having the greatest challenges, and what should be done to overcome them?
From a Queensland trade viewpoint, the most immediate opportunities are in the traditional sectors of agribusiness (beef and horticulture); education and training; and mining equipment, technology and services. There are also long-term opportunities for companies looking to partner as Indonesia find ways to solve its food security and skills issues, and as it continues to transition to a green and digital economy. While there are opportunities across most sectors the challenge I find that many companies face is the long-term view and commitment that is required of them in order to eventually succeed.
Thank you Ben and keep up the good work of bringing Indonesia and Queensland closer together.