Issue No. 7 - October/November 2002
Our Man in Japan
How important is Japan as a trading partner for South Australia? Just think 'Mitsubishi'.
We have had a representative office in Tokyo for more than a decade. Founded through an Elders branch, the office had become independent and employed three people by 1995, when the SA Government decided to upgrade.
The Economic Development Authority (EDA)— soon to become the Office for Economic Development (OED)— appointed Robert Gumley to take the State’s outpost into the 21st century.
Robert is an old Japan hand. From 1987 to 1991, he was a senior marketing consultant with the Australian Tourist Commission in Tokyo. He moved to Austrade in 1991 as a Trade Commissioner and after three years in that job was appointed Director of the Australia Japan Foundation and cultural adviser to the Australian ambassador. In late 1996 Robert became not only Chief Representative for the SA Government Office in Tokyo, but also Director, Tourism Marketing, Japan—an efficiently combined post that isn’t common in foreign service.
“When the new office was opened we had a total of five staff,” Robert says, “and we were tasked with the following:
- Assist South Australian organisations to export to the Japan market
- Attract foreign investment from Japan to Australia
- Promote South Australia as a tourist destination for Japanese.
“Two years later Education Adelaide decided to join our office and placed a full-time staff member with us, making a total of six staff. As time went on and exchange rates moved from AUD$1 = Yen90 to Yen60, staff were not replaced as they left. We are now down to three staff, but trying to accomplish the same amount of work we were doing six years ago!”
Robert’s first priority in the new office was to match what Japan wanted and what South Australia was producing. The obvious fit was food.
“Of course we continued to promote other area...