New Trade Commissioner of Greece in Australia: Double tax deal in final stages

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From meeting with members of the Hellenic Australian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (HACCI) to connecting with Sydney’s Greek community, the new Trade Commissioner of Greece in Australia, Chrysa Prokopaki, has only just landed Down Under but she’s hit the ground running.

To mark the occasion of her arrival, Ms Prokopaki gave her first Australian interview to The Greek Herald and spoke openly about bilateral relations and the Double Taxation Agreement that is currently in the works between Greece and Australia.

What has been your impression of Australia so far?

I will not hide from you that I arrived in Australia with intense professional anxiety about how I will cope with the strengthening of bilateral economic relations for a community so established and robust. It should be noted that the office of Economic and Commercial Affairs of Greece in Sydney, Australia has jurisdiction over the whole of Australia and New Zealand (and over the island states of SE Asia).

However, the warm welcome I received from the Greek diaspora and the enormous help I receive every day has allayed all my fears. Therefore, my first impression of Australia is only positive as I have found a friendly and close-knit Greek community willing to work closely with the Consulate.

How would you describe the current trade relations between Greece and Australia?

Greece’s bilateral trade relations with Australia have always been prosperous, with a consistently positive trade balance for Greece. Given the enormous distance between the two countries, the resilience of Greek export businesses in Australia and the accessibility of Greek products to Australian consumers is admirable. In addition, tourism and (marine) transport services account for a large portion of Greece’s transactions from the Australian market. It is worth mentioning that in the year 2022, in the wake of the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the total volume of commercial transactions between Greece and Australia increased by 13 percent.

At the same time, Greece is among the top 20 countries for investments in green energy projects, a fact that has already been significantly exploited by Australian energy companies (for example, the acquisition of 49% of Greece’s national grid operator by Macquarie for a price of 2.1 billion euros). In the opposite direction, large Greek energy companies, such as Mytilineos SA, have also expanded their presence in the Australian energy market, especially in the field of Renewable Energy Sources.

Certainly, we are experiencing a positive momentum of exports and investments, with an increasingly favourable outlook. For 2023, in a year of significant slowdown for the European economy and even recession in some countries, Greece is predicted to present the third highest growth rate in the Eurozone.

What are your plans to strengthen bilateral trade relations?

Utilising data in relation to the consumer interest for Greek products and services, I envisage the expansion of our target group not only to the Greek Australian community, where the emotional connection is already established, but to the entire Australian market. Greek products and services have a comparative advantage and they can compete – if not in price, certainly in excellent quality – against other countries that have dominated the Australian market (for example, China).

Do you believe there is room for growth in specific areas of the economy? What are they and why?

Greece as a Northern Hemisphere tourist destination with summer holidays opposite to those of Australian residents, can offer, in addition to its given natural beauty, hospitality services and infrastructure which cover the tastes and desires of all tourists from Australia. However, despite the doubling of Australian tourist arrivals from 2016 onwards, the percentage of total arrivals remains at an all-time low (around 1 percent). This area, in my opinion, needs strengthening. But it will definitely be greatly helped by the announced opening of the GNTO Office in Melbourne (looming within this year).

New Trade Commissioner of Greece in Australia, Chrysa Prokopaki.

Greece annually receives arrivals three times its population and has drawn up a ten-year strategy for sustainable tourism. Within 2023, the appearance of increased tourist traffic earlier than the peak season confirms the extension of the tourist season and the emergence of other aspects of the tourist product (diversification/strengthening of thematic tourism). We are therefore convinced that it can be added to the bucket list of even more Australians.

What is the latest on the Double Taxation Agreement between Greece and Australia?

This agreement is a declared priority for both countries. It is in the final processing stage and its entry into force is expected soon. It is estimated that it will have a very positive influence on the economic relations of the two countries, as about 82,000 Australian citizens are holders of VAT numbers in Greece, of which 30,000 also have Greek citizenship.

Do you have a message for the Greek community of Australia?

I want to assure all members of the Greek community that Greece has not forgotten you. Through all the Authorities (Embassy and four Consulates), Greece keeps open all channels of communication between the Community and the homeland, assisting in all matters of your family and personal situation, which are related to Greece.

For the Greek state, the Greek diaspora in Australia act as a connecting link between the two countries and peoples. The Greek Australian community, with its resilience and passion, has co-shaped Australia’s modern society and economy into a very charming multicultural patchwork, passing on principles, values, traditions, morals and customs to modern Australian society. The awarding, every year, of prominent Greeks by the Australian Authorities for their contribution to society, letters and culture, demonstrates the degree of successful integration in their second homeland.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I feel the need, before we close this interview, to thank for their undivided help, apart from The Greek Herald, our Embassy in Canberra, the rest of our Consular Authorities in Australia, the Archdiocese of Australia and mainly – due to our daily cooperation – the team of the Consulate of Greece in Sydney, especially the Consul General Ioannis Mallikourtis and the officers of the Office of Public Diplomacy. Also, for their continuous support I want to thank the local chambers, such as Business Sydney and, of course, my predecessor Ms Katia Gikiza.

They say that the first post abroad is always fondly remembered and, thanks to the support of all of the above, I am sure that this will happen!

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