German Update From Down Under webinar, October 2021

On Thursday, 28 October 2021 the German Australian Business Council hosted the webinar German Update From Down Under, providing an update on current business topics between Germany and Australia. Our distinguished guest speakers were Dr Thomas Fitschen, German Ambassador to Australia; Cornelis Keijzer, Head of Trade, Economics, Research and Innovation Delegation of the EU to Australia; and Christoph von Speßhardt, Executive Director of the German Chamber of Commerce in Australia.

In their presentations, all three provided an insight into topics such as the German-Australian hydrogen alliance, the Enhanced Strategic Partnership between Germany and Australia, and the current state of the Free-Trade-Agreement between Australian and the EU.

The webinar attracting close to 50 registrations mainly from Germany, Australia and the UK, and was moderated by Sabine Pittrof, chair of the German Australian Business Council. During the Q&A session, participants had the opportunity to ask questions directly to the speakers.


Australian companies supercharging growth in Europe webinar, November 2021

On Tuesday, 09 Nov 2021 the German Australian Business Council and our corporate member DGWA hosted a webinar on „Australian Companies Supercharging Growth in Europe“.


Moderated by Council Board Chair Sabine Pittrof and Deputy Chair – Munich Elisabeth Opie, the webinar featured speakers Michael Schmidt, Economic Geologist, German Mineral Resources Agency, Keith Coughlan, Executive Chairman, European Metals Holdings, Trevor Matthews, Managing Director, Volt Resources and Jeremy McManus, General Manager – Commercial and Investor Relations, Neometals Ltd.


Participants were given an overview of the minerals (lithium, graphite) and EV markets, the companies’ investment and activities across Europe as well as a snapshot of the overall strategies that have placed them at the forefront of the Electric Vehicle and Gigafactory revolution across Europe.


We would like to thank our corporate member DGWA in supporting the event, all speakers for their valuable time and insight, and all participants for joining us.


The recording is available on request by emailing


European Perspectives on the proposed Free Trade Agreement between Australia & the EU

Following the successful first Free Trade Agreement (FTA) event in Brussels with Australian negotiators in 2019, the Australian Business in Europe (ABIE) group were delighted to host the second FTA discussion via webinar with a focus on the European perspective.

Our guest speakers, H.E Michael Pulch, EU Ambassador to Australia and Mr Peter Berz, EU Chief Negotiator were introduced by the chair of the session, Rebecca Steffen, from the Australian Swiss Chamber of Commerce and current co Chair of ABIE. Attracting close to 200 registrations from all over Europe and Australia, the event was expertly moderated by Jennifer Tucker, Chair of ABIE Netherlands and Jason Collins, CEO of European Australian Business Council.

Ambassador Pulch began the webinar outlining their commitment to enhance negotiations to allow expansion and cooperation in many areas including political, security, education, science and technology that will attract new markets, such as SME’s, and within the transport and space industries. Whilst not on the FTA discussions, Ambassador Pulch also added that recent bilateral agreements on taxation agreements and a physical presence of trade offices by Australian states in various European locations further highlights the commitment to reinforce stronger economic relationship across the board.

Mr Berz provided an overview of the current negotiations, the EU-AU FTA’s last round taking place in June (the next scheduled for November) which included discussions on professional services, small & medium size enterprises, sustainability and climate change in trade agreements. Equally important, Mr Berz noted what the FTA negotiations is not about, ie immigration, visas, pensions and health care; as well as an outline on the finalisation process, involving legal reviews, lobbying and additional guidance from member states.

The webinar provided an opportunity for the audience to ask questions directly to the speakers, some of which included the timing and process of negotiations, agriculture, the GDPR and Australian privacy legislation, climate and sustainability.

Special thanks to the German Australian Business Council for their support and contribution towards a successful event – please contact the GABC at for a recording of the webinar.


GABC AGM 2021, Online event, April 2021

The German Australian Business Council 2021 AGM took place virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions on the 21st of April.

Our Chair, Sabine Pittrof, provided more than 20 members with a report on the activities of the German Australian Business Council during the past year with a particular focus on the new membership model, events, relationships with government bodies and international activities. She also gave an outlook on 2021 initiatives, including focus themes for the year ahead and the event strategy in light of COVID-19 restrictions.

Our treasurer Eberhard Goihl reported on the status of the expenditures and revenues, the collection of outstanding member fees in the 2020 fiscal year and the budget for 2021 passed by the board, including the effects of the new membership model.

The presentations were followed by a short discussion after which the Board was released from liability.

It was also announced that The American German Business Club (AGBC) Munich had offered honorary corporate membership to the German Australian Business Council. This cooperation will mean that members of one association can attend functions of the other association under members’ conditions in the future. The resolution was supported unanimously by the AGM.

In order to be able to offer online board and general meetings in the future if desired, the Board proposed changes to the constitution which were adopted by the AGM in their entirety.


ABIE Business Leaders Forum, Online Event, March, 2021

With much of the world still struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic, economic activity has fallen drastically, foreshadowing the most severe recession in nearly a century. As part of the post-COVID-19 recovery, countries are now focusing on measures that can drive sustainability while boosting jobs, income and growth and accelerating climate action.

It was no surprise then that this was the topic chosen for the second ABIE Network Business Leaders Roundtable held on the 18 March 2021 and titled “Opportunities for a sustainability-driven recovery: Perspectives between Australia and Europe”.

The three speakers, Romain Desrousseaux, Deputy CEO of Neoen; Jeff Connolly, Chairman and CEO of Siemens Australia Pacific and Roland Schmidt, MD of Macquarie Capital, representing the financial services, industrial infrastructure and power sectors, are all members of the ABIE network. Nicola Watkinson, MD of International Trade and Investment at TheCityUK and former Austrade Senior Trade Commissioner for Western Europe, joined from the UK to moderate the round table.

Roland Schmidt opened the discussion with an introduction to Macquarie’s Green Investment Group (GIG), a primary vehicle for principal investment in green energy projects, and home to one of the world’s largest teams of green energy investment specialists. The group has already committed and arranged £20+ bn to support green energy projects around the world.

As countries turn towards renewable energy to reduce their carbon footprint in order to reach the goals of the Paris agreement, companies like Neoen, France’s leading independent producer of renewable energy, play a key role in this transition. Romain Desrousseaux pointed out that in 2020 despite the COVID-19 crisis, Neoen had a turnover of €300 million and now operates 4 GW of assets in 15 countries.

Siemens is also working towards becoming the world’s first major industrial company to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030 and have already reduced their carbon footprint by 54% and ahead of schedule. Jeff Connolly explained that Siemens hopes to drive sustainability through the areas of intelligent infrastructure, industry 4.0 and the future of energy – everything from smart infrastructure delivering energy efficiency upgrades for commercial buildings through to automation and digitalisation in industrial plants and even enabling green hydrogen from renewables.

Green hydrogen was a recurring topic discussed by the three speakers with Roland Schmidt describing it as “the next big thing” with countries like Australia and Germany playing a key role in establishing a global hydrogen market.

On whether Australia is a good place to invest in renewable energy, Romain Desrousseaux indicated that Australia has a great macro environment for renewable energy “with both wind and sun in the same location” as well as “plenty of land to build large assets”. He also mentioned certain difficulties faced including the complexity of organising and connecting an asset within the expansive Australian electricity network and meeting local specificities. This has not put Neoen off from investing more than AUD3 billion in projects around Australia since its presence in 2012 including the Hornsdale Power Reserve and a new Victorian Big Battery which will become one of the largest batteries in the world.

In regards to the accelerated digitalisation due to the COVID-19 crisis and the various opportunities for future growth and sustainability, Jeff Connolly said that there are many elements to it and “it’s about better use of resources”. Wolf of the Willows craft brewery for instance reduced their brew time from 25 to 18 days. He also highlighted Hydrogen Park in South Australia which uses Siemens technology to produce green hydrogen from excess rooftop solar to inject into the gas network as well as to ship to industrial customers around Australia. He also believes that there is a confidence issue which is holding some companies back from reaching their sustainability goals and which needs to be addressed. In particular, there needs to be an incentive on the demand side to take up business risk and work on R&D.

The circular economy is also a hot topic in Australia at the moment, with state and federal governments investing in circular economy innovation projects.

The exchange ended with valuable insights into whether we are seeing a genuine change of global mindset regarding government attitudes to sustainability and climate change and whether this would create winner and loser markets. “There is a shift in mindset on green energy and green economy, but it’s also a matter of affordability”, said Roland Schmidt. “There is a transition globally, but some countries around the globe will need help to be able to participate in the transition.”

In his closing remarks and vote of thanks, Richard York, the current Chair of the ABIE Group, which comprises 17 organisations in Europe and Australia, hoped that initiatives like this annual ABIE Business Leaders Roundtable would help to build trust and understanding between companies in Australia and Europe.


COVID-19 Impact on under- and postgraduate academic exchange, Online Event, February 2021

On 5th of February 2021, the Business Council had the pleasure of hosting an online event with Katharina McGrath, Director of the DAAD Information Centre in Sydney, and Christian Strowa, Head of Section “Scholarship Programmes Asia and the Pacific” at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Bonn. The DAAD is a self-governing organisation comprised of German higher education institutions and their student bodies and constitutes one of the largest funding bodies for academic exchange worldwide. Since it was founded in 1925, the DAAD has supported more than 2.6 million academics in Germany and abroad. It relies on a strong organisational structure, a worldwide network of partners and alumni and a motivated staff of over 900 employees.

Christian Strowa provided a structural overview and explained DAAD’s mission from an operational point of view. He introduced the DAAD’s current strategic goals: promote excellence in education and science through international exchange, enhance international collaboration and promote global responsibility and development through “change by exchange”, the DAAD’s motto. He also introduced the pillars of the German research sector from a funding point of view. Detailed figures were provided on international student exchange and the current measures in place in view of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Katharina McGrath outlined scholarships and funding opportunities for exchanges from Australia to Germany and spoke about the current situation of Australian universities with regards to international exchange during and following the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines may allow exchanges to resume in the near future but new opportunities to build deeper connections have accelerated through virtual tools in the meantime.

If you have interest in watching the webinar, please contact our office for access to a recording.


Australia-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce Virtual Event: A 2021 Toast to Australia: Aussie Wine Tasting and Networking, February 2021

The Australia-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce invited members to their virtual event: A 2021 Toast to Australia: Aussie Wine Tasting and Networking on the 3rd of February, 2021. Representatives of various ABIE Groups across Europe were also invited to participate to broaden the networking across borders. Eberhard Goihl, GABC treasurer, attended as the German flag-bearer.

The wines were delivered to participants beforehand, so everybody could smell, taste and drink the products as Mark Flounders from Plonk Wines Ltd. introduced three different wines and shared a lot of insider information. Despite the European guests experiencing their first contact with the new Brexit regulations (the wine delivery was delayed in Customs due to declaration requirements), everybody enjoyed the session and networking opportunities very much.


Corporate Roundtable with H.E Philip Green, Online, December 2020

In order to welcome Ambassador Philip Green to Germany, the German Australian Business Council held a virtual corporate roundtable for corporate members on the 3rd  of December 2020. During this exclusive C-Level briefing, which took place under Chatham House rules, the Ambassador set out key priorities for his tenure. Participants had the opportunity to put their questions to the Ambassador.

Given the success of the format, we are looking at hosting further industry-specific roundtables in 2021.


Three sides of a coin: fresh perspectives for 2021 from Germany, Ireland and Australia, Online, January 2021

On Wednesday, the 13th of January, the German Australian Business Council and the Irish Business Network (IBN) Germany welcomed almost 70 participants for our first joint event of 2021 “Three Sides of a Coin: fresh perspectives for 2021 from Germany, Ireland and Australia”. The event featured speakers John Lynam, Consul General of Ireland, Frankfurt; Simon Clayton, Deputy Head of Mission, Australian Embassy- Berlin; Volkmar Klein, MdB, Member of German Parliament and was moderated by Eric Menges, Managing Director, FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH.

John shared the positive benefits of BREXIT for Ireland, such as accelerated plans to open 25 new missions globally by 2025 and strong investment in key sectors like life sciences and clean tech. Germany is also Ireland’s largest trading partner in the EU and a closer trading relationship and volume is expected once the initial teething issues are sorted.

Simon spoke about new business perspectives particularly in hydrogen. He also highlighted advantages of the AU-EU FTA which is currently being negotiated and which would ideally lead to more EU investment in Australia with positive implications for the global supply chain and logistics.

Volkmar rounded off the discussion highlighting Germany’s three pillars of COVID response around supporting businesses, stabilizing the economy and investing in the future (specifically in industries such as green steel and in developing countries which will be impacted disproportionately by this crisis).

A lively Q&A punctuated by bits of humour and positivity rounded off the rest of the evening’s discussion.

We thank IBN Germany for their cooperation and John, Simon, Volkmar and Eric for a very engaging and insightful evening.

Please kindly contact our office for access to the recording.


Christmas Drinks with H.E. Philip Green, Australian Ambassador to Germany, Online Event, December 2020

On Friday, the 11th of December, the German Australian Business Council, together with 50 members and friends, welcomed H.E. Ambassador Philip Green to Germany over an online Christmas drinks event. Over a glass of Alpha Box & Dice Wightmare Chardonnay from South Australia, the Ambassador gave an overview of Australia’s industry focus on advanced manufacturing and renewables, bilateral relations between Australia and Germany, and his priorities for his term, including the hydrogen supply chain and the AU-EU FTA. He also highlighted his interest in promoting Australian arts and culture as well as adopting a Team Australia approach for his term. The evening ended with the Ambassador sharing a series of Christmas dad jokes ahead of a lively interactive Q&A.

We look forward to working closely with Ambassador Green throughout his term in Germany. As we head into the holidays, we would also like to thank all members and friends for their support this year and wish all a “Guten Rutsch!”