H E Ambassador Robert J Tyson
With a variegated 40 years of rich experience in the world of diplomacy Australian Ambassador to Kuwait His Excellency Robert J Tyson comes across as an urbane suave and extremely friendly person. His journey in diplomacy has taken him to literally different corners of the world where he has left an indelible imprint.
In an exclusive interview with The Times the veteran diplomat opened new contours of the long and cordial relation that dots the horizon of the two countries. Having joined the foreign service in 1971, Ambassador Tyson has served in New Zealand, Thailand, Russia, USA, Saudi Arabia, Iraq. He is only the third resident ambassador in Kuwait even though Australia has had diplomatic relations with Kuwait since 1974, when the first non-resident ambassador to Kuwait was appointed.
Apart for his briefs stints in the Prime Minister's office in Canberra and Melbourne (State govt) Ambassador Tyson's has also served as a policy officer in political and military affairs even though he insists work varies from posting to posting.
In Kuwait the primary focus has shifted to commerce, tourism and also education.
"We have a long term relation with Kuwait spanning more than 40 years and we were very pleased with our participation of the military liberation of Kuwait." This according to him was a very important milestone in the relationship between the two countries. "Since the liberation of Kuwait we have had an extended period of military cooperation which has of late been scaled down as the security environment in the region has improved dramatically," he noted.
Australia in the Gulf is known for its livestock and the story in Kuwait is no different. On the commercial relationship, Ambassador Tyson pointed out that this goes back a long period and was based primarily on livestock exports and automobiles.
"Not many people would know that some of Toyota cars and Chevrolet cars come from Australia to Kuwait. This forms a major component of the bilateral trade between the two countries. There were many more items from Australia especially food products available in various stores across Kuwait. These range from wheat, barley, dairy and food products.
Total bilateral trade between the two countries stand at little more than $1 billion dollars and is heavily stacked in favor of Australia as we are largely self sufficient in oil we do not import much from Kuwait, Ambassador Tyson revealed. Ventures such as Australian College of Kuwait and Box Hill College of Kuwait and the growing number of students from Kuwait (appx 1500) add real depth and durability of the bilateral relationship by building personal links between our societies, Ambassador pointed out. He was very upbeat about the world class education facilities offered in Australia finds the demand in Kuwait for Australian education growing considerably. In cost terms also it is extremely attractive he pointed out.
Australia is increasingly becoming a preferred touristic destination and more and more Kuwaitis are visiting the country every year. A few thousand people from Kuwait visit Australia every year and the connections between the two countries are getting easier and distance is no longer a major issue.
On its part Ambassador Tyson disclosed that the embassy was planning a musical event in June as part of cultural exchange between the two communities.
He pointed at the significant Kuwaiti investment in Australia, which totals around $5 billion dollars, the bulk of that was in portfolio investment from Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA). There were also investments in real estate and farming and the investment climate was pretty liberal. Ambassador Tyson urged Kuwaitis to invest various sectors in Australia. He said the Australian economy is now in its 22nd year of continuous economic growth, a performance unprecedented in Australia’s economic history and amongst other developed economies. Australia is the fourth largest economy in Asia and the 12th largest economy in the world.
On Australian businesses in Kuwait Ambassador Tyson pointed out that there were some large Australian companies operating in Kuwait generally in the area of engineering and infrastructure development. Companies like Wolly Parsons, (technical project and operational services) SMEC, (professional engineering and development consultants) and Leighton, (infrastructure and construction, oil and gas).
On the Kuwaiti side he said Kuwaiti companies such as Agility Logistics, Action Group Holdings and the Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company are engaged in diverse range of activities in Australia, including banking commercial real estate, mining and logistics. Kuwait Finance house one of the largest Islamic banks has an office in Melbourne as well.
Australia and Kuwait have also signed a Memorandum of understanding on the trade in live animals. This MoU outlines conditions for the trade and includes assurances that livestock will be treated in line with international animal welfare standards.
We are optimistic about more activity on the business front in the coming years as we see Kuwait has a major development agenda and Australian companies have a keen interest to participate in these upcoming projects. We look forward to further strengthening of our business relationship through the conclusion of an Australian Gulf cooperation Council Free Trade Agreement, Ambassador revealed
There are a little over 1000 Australians working in Kuwait mainly in education, banking and security industries. Ambassador Tyson expressed his appreciation to the Kuwaiti leadership for their encouragement and support of the bilateral relationship.