MARGARET ADAMSON AUSTRALIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER TO PAKISTAN
Australia has expertise in a range of key sectors that can benefit Pakistan, from resources development, energy, and sustainable water management, to education and work-force training, and building on our longstanding links in agriculture and livestock production
Exports of our mineral resources and agriculture have been significant to our economic success but tourism and education, our top two service sector exports, are of increasing importance to Australia’s modern economy
EVOLVE: Please share with us your experience before coming to Pakistan and what is your main focus as high commissioner?
Margaret Adamson: Prior to my appointment as Australian High Commission to Pakistan in June 2015, I served as Australia’s Ambassador to Poland and to Cambodia, and most recently as Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, one of our two largest overseas missions. I have also worked in a range of roles in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra, including as head of Public Diplomacy Branch, European Union and Western Europe Branch, and Pacific Islands Branch.
My key focus as Australia’s High Commissioner to Pakistan is to support and promote Australia’s longstanding and friendly relations with Pakistan. I will be looking at ways to build our trade relationship, to cooperate further on security issues including in our efforts to combat global terrorism, human trafficking, people smuggling and transnational organised crime, and to build links between education and research institutions. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is also a core priority of the Australian Government’s foreign policy globally and a major focus in our engagement with Pakistan.
EVOLVE: How would you describe the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Australia?
Margaret Adamson: Australia and Pakistan have enjoyed friendly and productive relations
since Pakistan’s independence. Not many people are aware that our relations also go back well before 1947. In the 19th century Baluchi cameleers helped Australians to explore the remote interior regions of our country. Australia has also sent students to the Quetta Staff Command College since 1910.
The Pakistani diaspora in Australia brings its own cultures and experiences to Australia’s diverse population. And we welcome a large body of 16,000 Pakistani students enrolled in Australian tertiary institutions.
Our two governments have many shared interests – whether promoting regional stability and economic prosperity, combating the global scourge of terrorism or dealing with the impact of environmental challenges on agriculture and water management.
EVOLVE: Australia’s economy is growing faster than other developed economies, at rate of 3.1% annually and despite the perceptions that Australia is still a resources-based economy, service industries currently account for 58% of Australia’s output. Kindly throw light that how this miracle was made possible?
Margaret Adamson: Australia’s economic success owes much to a range of politically difficult but important economic reforms undertaken in the 1980s and 90s. These reforms modernised our economy and liberalised our trade relations with the world, particularly Asia. As a result our economy has become more stable and we have experienced 25 years of continuous growth, including through the period of the Global Financial Crisis.
Exports of our mineral resources and agriculture have been significant to our economic success but tourism and education, our top two service sector exports, are of increasing importance to Australia’s modern economy. Australia is a very safe and attractive destination for tourists and business visitors from across the world. We have efficient public transport and excellent tourism infrastructure, as well as a world class hospitality industry.
Australia’s education institutions have a lot to offer to students, particularly in the areas of research and innovation. Our universities are full of students from all over the world, so they are able to draw on a real diversity of opinion and expertise.
EVOLVE: People smuggling is a key issue for Australia while Pakistan is one of the countries from which people have been coming to Australia. How are you addressing this issue with the help of Pakistani Authorities?
Margaret Adamson: Those who engage in people smuggling and human trafficking are taking advantage of extremely vulnerable people and Australia is committed to combating this evil trade. Recent events in Europe have drawn attention to the terrible human toll that such activities can bring and this is a toll with which Australia is tragically familiar as people have drowned at sea attempting the dangerous journey by boat to Australia.
Australian companies are involved in a range of commercial enterprises in Pakistan – from the exporting of Australian dairy cows to Pakistan and the operation of franchises like Gloria Jeans and Cone Heads. Australian engineering services supervised the construction of the Islamabad – Lahore Motorway
Successive Australian Governments have therefore implemented policies to discourage these activities – those who attempt to arrive in Australia illegally by boat are not permitted to settle there. Australia plans to take almost 26,000 humanitarian refugees from around the world this year, making it one of the most generous resettlement countries on a per-capita basis.
We work closely with the Government of Pakistan, and with the United Nations and other countries, in seeking to address both the push factors, the pull factors, and to prosecute the facilitators that drive human trafficking and people smuggling.
EVOLVE: How do you support Australian business in Pakistan? What are the main areas of cooperation? Are there any “open doors” for further business cooperation?
Margaret Adamson: Austrade (the Australian Trade and Investment Commission) is playing a very active role in supporting Pakistani firms to do business with Australia. It provides information on buying products and services from Australia, arranging buyer visits to Australia and highlighting key trade events in Australia.
Australian companies are involved in a range of commercial enterprises in Pakistan – from the exporting of Australian dairy cows to Pakistan and the operation of franchises like Gloria Jeans and Cone Heads. Australian engineering services supervised the construction of the Islamabad – Lahore Motorway.
On the whole, there is great potential for the Australia – Pakistan trade and investment relationship to grow. We see growing business opportunities in agribusiness, energy, services and infrastructure – and particularly in education and training.
EVOLVE: A number of students from Pakistan are studying in Australia. Do you think that Pakistani universities also need technical support to enhance their standards? Can collaborations between Pakistani and Australian universities be expected in future?
Margaret Adamson: The number of Pakistani students seeking higher education in Australia has increased markedly, especially in the last few years. Just two years back, a delegation of Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission along with Vice Chancellors of 12 Pakistani universities visited prominent Australian institutions to explore opportunities for linkages, research and development.
On technical support, Australian institutions are already helping with curriculum development – for example through twinning arrangements between Australian and Pakistani colleges. Skilston in Karachi has collaborated with Hunter Technical and Further Education College in New South Wales
We see growing business opportunities in agribusiness, energy, services and infrastructure – and particularly in education and training
to deliver quality education in hospitality. The Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (ITHM) Faislabad and Lahore has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the North Melbourne Institute of Technical and Further Education in Victoria. Similarly, the Management Development Institute (MDI) Islamabad has signed an MoU with the University of Southern Queensland for delivering a program in Business Administration.
EVOLVE: How do you opine that what initiatives are required to connect Pakistani businessmen with global business community and especially with the Australian companies?
Margaret Adamson: Bilateral trade between our two countries is currently valued at over $800 million. There is significant potential for this to expand on both sides, particularly as Pakistan’s economy and business environment becomes more conducive to investment. As with the global business scene generally, Australian companies are alert to the investment climate in Pakistan, and are watching for new opportunities to emerge, including in association with China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects and as a consequence of the improved infrastructure that will be delivered by CPEC.
CPEC has the potential to drive foreign investment in Pakistan, along with innovation and productivity gains which can create growth and lift employment opportunities
Australian has expertise in a range of key sectors that can benefit Pakistan, from resources
development, energy, and sustainable water management, to education and work-force training, and building on our longstanding links in agriculture and livestock production. Information technology is another area of potential. Australia is emerging as a major global supplier of LNG, and Australian companies will be pleased to supply Pakistan’s needs.
South Asia is the world’s least economically in tegrated region. As the second largest economy in this region, Pakistan has much to gain from looking towards the significant opportunities provided by its closest neighbours.
EVOLVE: How do you foresee and evaluate the impact of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on Pakistan’s economy especially on the region where two departed worlds China and Europe are going to be connected?
Margaret Adamson: Australia strongly supports regional economic integration and is actively engaged throughout the world in facilitating greater international trade linkages which foster economic growth – as the saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats”. CPEC holds great potential for the economies of not only Pakistan and China, but for the entire region.
In addition to essential infrastructure, CPEC has the potential to drive foreign investment in Pakistan, along with innovation and productivity gains which can create growth and lift employment opportunities. I note and welcome that the Government of Pakistan is considering how best to capitalise on this opportunity in a way that benefits the citizens of Pakistan in an inclusive and economically and environmentally sustainable way.
EVOLVE: You work very hard as High Commissioner, what do you do to relax? Do you have any hobbies?
Margaret Adamson: I like reading, and walking in the Margalla Hills. I also enjoy playing piano and have recently joined a choir. I have a particular interest in learning new languages and experiencing different cultures. Being a part of a region with an amazingly rich cultural legacy, both built and intangible, Pakistan has vibrant culture, and a wealth of archeological sites. I am also learning Urdu – I think yeh bohat meethi zaban hai. In Islamabad and through my travels I have also experienced the extraordinary hospitality of the people of this nation.
South Asia is the world’s least economically integrated region. As the second largest economy in this region, Pakistan has much to gain from looking towards the significant opportunities provided by its closest neighbours.
EVOLVE: Your message to readers of EVOLVE?
I would say that Pakistan has a strategic advantage with such a large and vibrant young population. Pakistan’s future success will depend to a major degree on its ability to empower the potential of this population – including of course its women and girls – through education, a voice in decision-making, and equitable economic empowerment.