Australia and Kuwait enjoy a friendly and cooperative relationship. Kuwait recognises the support for Kuwait’s independence and territorial integrity provided by Australia’s contribution to the coalition force which in 1991 liberated Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation. Relations are underpinned by our strong commercial ties and increasing people-to-people links.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established formally in 1974 and Australia opened an Embassy in Kuwait City in December 2004. The then Foreign Minister of Australia opened the Australian Embassy at its current premises when he visited Kuwait in June 2008. The Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) opened an office in February 2010. Kuwait upgraded its Liaison Office in Canberra to an Embassy in January 2002 and opened a Cultural office in 2008.
Trand and Investment
The trade relationship is substantial, with strong potential for further expansion in the energy sector (professional services and related equipment), education, agribusiness, advanced manufacturing, tourism and other services. Two-way merchandise trade amounted to over $901 million in 2013-14. This figure understates the level of trade as it does not capture Australian exports trans-shipped to Kuwait through the regional entrepôt of Dubai.
Kuwait is a significant market for Australian exports of passenger motor vehicles, wheat, dairy and food products. It is Australia’s largest market for live sheep with exports valued at $62 million in 2013-14. Imports from Kuwait are almost entirely petroleum products and fertilisers.
Kuwait is also an important market for Australian education and tourism services which build the people-to-people relationship. Some 1,500 Kuwaiti students are enrolled in Australian institutions, the majority on Kuwait Government scholarships. The establishment of the Australian College of Kuwait in 2004 and Box Hill College of Kuwait in 2007 has assisted in expanding educational links.
Over 1,000 Australians reside in Kuwait, employed mainly in the education, banking, oil and gas and security industries. Australian companies with offices in Kuwait are predominately centred around engineering and construction management services, and education.
Kuwait’s investments in Australia are estimated at over $12 billion, including significant investments from the Kuwaiti sovereign wealth fund, KIA, and the Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (KUFPEC). Areas of investment include real estate, hotels, banking and the oil and gas sector including KUFPEC’s stake in the Wheatstone LNG project. Kuwait Finance House, one of the largest Islamic banks in Kuwait, has an office in Melbourne, while private Kuwaiti companies, including Agility Logistics, Action Group Holdings and the Al-Ghanim Group, have also invested in Australia.
There is considerable scope for Australia to develop further the bilateral commercial relationship with Kuwait. Kuwait’s plans to develop infrastructure mega-projects and to diversify the skills base of its citizens represent significant opportunities for Australian companies. English is widely spoken and Kuwait has low import tariffs and taxes. The number of Australian food and beverage products in Kuwait has increased in recent years. There is also scope for growth in sectors including construction, infrastructure, education and health services. A priority for the Australian Government is the resumption of free trade agreement negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Kuwait.