The Swedish Australian Chamber of Commerce annual Executive Forum was held 2 June. It was great to see so many people joining this virtual forum which was supposed to be a round table meeting in person.
The President of SACC Jan Gardberg welcomed and introduced special guests HE Henrik Cederin Ambassador of Sweden to Australia and Mr Martin Ekberg, Trade Commissioner Australia, keynote speakers Professor Göran Roos and Mr Kieran Schneemann, Government Affairs Director, AstraZeneca and SACC representatives in the meeting Jonas Lindholm, Teresia Fors and Camilla Jennings. Jan also highlighted the purpose of the meeting to create a dialogue, share experiences, to identify opportunities, areas of cooperation within and across sectors and to establish areas of support between Swedish businesses, the Swedish Australian Chamber of Commerce, the Embassy and Business Sweden.
HE Henrik Cederin Ambassador of Sweden to Australia, thanked SACC and welcomed the group of senior executives of Swedish businesses in Australia for joining SACC and representatives from Team Sweden (the Embassy, Business Sweden and SACC) to discuss what to do to prepare for the period post COVID-19.
Ambassador Cederin referred to the worrying global political trends that we can see now of protectionism, inward looking governments, global cooperation getting harder and harder and generally not prioritised global governance issues. He recognised that Sweden and Australia are likeminded countries and share views on the importance of continued broad global cooperation.
The Ambassador also gave an update on the high-level visit HRH The Crown Princess and the Government Representative planned for April that was postponed and informed everyone that the Embassy is hopeful that this visit will be rescheduled in the not too distant future. Furthermore, he mentioned the importance of input from the corporations so that we can add value by working together. Areas of focus will be Sustainability, Smart City solutions, Swedish Mining Initiative, Health and MedTech. Post COVID-19 will bring challenges but also many opportunities and there will be interesting openings for cooperation within different areas including the areas mentioned.
Mr Martin Ekberg, Trade Commissioner Australia also thanked the Chamber for organising the platform for the forum. He also recognised that Team Sweden is an effective platform for Swedish businesses in Australia to collaborate. He presented the results from a survey Business Sweden conducted surveying Swedish companies early on in the crisis in May. In summary, the pandemic has had a bigger impact on business than what initially was predicted, however, confidence is growing slightly again and many businesses are realising that they will have to redefine their offer and adjust their sales and marketing efforts.
Professor Göran Roos presented a comprehensive view of the economic indicators before, during and what is predicted for the countries heavily impacted by the crisis. It was concluded that the debt to GDP ratio will increase as measurements to mitigate the economic impact of the crisis will take effect. The recovery path is broadly considered not to spike but to have a prolonged “NIKE” curve due to what is expected from business: reluctancy to take back staff, low level management will be removed altogether, social distancing measurements will continue to impact the service industry, increased digital activity will the office / real estate industry heavily, broad solvency issues which could lead to governments going in with debt against equity swap offers, possibly domestic industry development, increased frugality/consumer spend. What do we think will be the “New Normal”? Most definitely supply chain diversification promoting more regional and domestic buying, task automation in production, continued digital disruption of many services, declining globalisation, delayed “green switch’, China trying to reassert its participation (through increased acquisitions and IP assumptions) and accelerating its absorption of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Australia will continue to be sandwiched between the USA and China, WTO is continually marginalised and will continue to be without support from the US and China. Local manufacturing is on the rise and storage issues have certainly come to the forefront of the minds of government (Finnish example), increased appetite for government procurement and lastly the impact of the ownership of raw materials.
Mr Kieran Schneemann, Government Affairs Director AstraZeneca presented the different situation of infected individuals in Sweden vs Australia and said that in both countries the risk of a second wave of infections is severe. He also presented an extensive view of the Australian government response and its implication on our economy. In summary, what is predicted at this point in time is that the Australian government response will come at a cost of more than $300bn, over a three-year period. This is to be confirmed when the delayed budget will be presented on the 6th of October later this year. Kieran also presented the coming elections as it is important to understand how these critical political dates will impact the priorities of the different state and federal governments and thereby impact business. What we can assume at this stage is that, due to the increased domestic spend and stimulus packages to bring back economic activity, all governments will be asked to look at cuts in other areas. For example, climate change issues will most likely not be a key focus. We can also assume that there will be a lot of policies introduced to make the sitting government “look good” with an imminent election. We can also estimate that there will be a blow- out in the medical benefit scheme as the health budget has increased significantly and future patient support will likely be reduced.
The next SACC Executive Forum is planned to be held in person in Melbourne on 16 September.