Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) government has appointed two global Trade and Investment Commissioners—one to be stationed in the U.S. and the other in China—whose job will be to attract trade and investment to the state.
Announced by investment and trade minister Stuart Ayres on Friday, former deputy premier and trade and industry minister John Barilaro will be based in the U.S. as trade commissioner to the Americas, while former national CEO of the Australia China Business Council, Helen Sawczak, will take the role of the commissioner to China.
The appointments are the last of six commissioners chosen to represent NSW abroad and were said to have followed a rigorous global talent search by recruitment firm NGS Global.
Minister Ayres said that Barilaro and Sawczak would help NSW businesses break into new international markets, find new customers and drive investment into the state.
“John Barilaro’s specialised experience, first as an NSW business owner and then as Trade & Industry Minister overseeing the NSW Trade Statement and the blueprint for expanding international trade and investment opportunities, make him well qualified for this posting,” he said.
“NSW is a magnet for U.S. foreign investment. The USA is the largest source of foreign investment into Australia, valued at more than $196 billion in 2020. This investment creates new jobs, supports innovation, and lifts prosperity for the people of NSW, including in regional communities.”
Barilaro said he welcomes the opportunity to support NSW companies in exporting and expanding to the U.S., “including the many fintech, cyber security, space, health and food and beverage companies we are already helping to succeed in the U.S. through the Going Global Export Program.”
Meanwhile, Ayres said Sawczak’s appointment would benefit the NSW-China trade relationship.
“Helen Sawczak’s work as the former National CEO of the Australia China Business Council and time spent in senior legal and commercial roles for some of Australia’s leading companies both here and abroad will serve the state tremendously well,” he said.
“China is one of NSW’s biggest export markets, including NSW’s largest processed and value-added goods export market. It is our largest source of international students, a valuable tourism market, a major source of foreign direct investment, and our largest agricultural goods market.”
Sawczak said that NSW already has an established presence in Shanghai and Guangzhou through Investment NSW, “and one of my top priorities will be helping NSW companies connect to the world’s largest consumer market and supporting the return of international students.”
Barilaro and Sawczak join current and former PwC partners Andrew Parker and Vishwesh Padmanabh, commissioners for Southeast Asia and India plus the Middle East, respectively, as well as commissioner for North Asia, financial industry executive Michael Newman, and commissioner for the UK, Europe, and Israel, former Business NSW CEO Stephen Cartwright.
NSW opposition leader Chris Minns questioned whether these appointments were an appropriate use of taxpayer funds at the current time and whether John Barilaro, who Minns called a close friend of Premier Dominic Perrottet, was really the best person to represent NSW out of a population of eight million.
“I mean, seriously, the government spending $55 million on these six foreign trade posts around the world...you'd have to say with teachers and nurses and police officers under so much stress and so much strain, the cost of living exploding, and net debt in NSW approaching $170 billion, surely we can do better than jobs for the boys, jobs for the mates,” he said.
However, Deputy Premier Paul Toole defended Barilaro’s appointment, saying he understood Barilaro did apply for the position, there was a strong recruitment process, and that Barilaro came out as the top candidate for the post.
“So, in that case, I think the process itself had been done properly,” he told 2GB Radio on Monday.
“So, I know he’s got the role, and certainly I know he'll do a good job for the people of this state when it comes to trade with another country.”