RENEWABLE energy and professional services are just two sectors in the Hunter that may benefit should Free Trade Agreement talks between Europe and Australia progress.
During a visit to Newcastle on Wednesday, Mr Ivano Casella, head of the economic and trade section at the European Union delegation in Australia, said discussions on the issue were at a “scoping stage” between the two parties.
“The Hunter has a lot of opportunities to grasp … [and] from what I have seen there is tremendous potential linked to different industries and renewables,” Mr Casella said before addressing a Region Development Australia Hunter event on its Smart Specialisation initiative.
“Newcastle is a region in transition and in Europe we have seen the same thing happen, here there is a willingness to do that, whether it be in renewable industries, agriculture or professional service industries.”
RDA Hunter chief executive officer Todd Williams told the summit the Hunter was the first region in Australia to undertake Smart Specialisation, an OECD framework implemented across the EU which forms an agenda for economic change by looking at capabilities and opportunities.
Cabinet secretary Senator Arthur Sinodinos said Newcastle, with its many strategic advantages, should aspire to be a “global city” and it was important the community had its say as the Hunter moved to strengthen its economy.
“I am so impressed by the way the Hunter and Newcastle has pulled itself up from the scruff of the neck after the steelworks closed,” he said.
Professor Roy Green, dean of business at the University of Technology, said optimism as well as realism must be exercised as the Hunter repositioned itself after the mining boom.
“Mining will still be important but it’s experiencing diminished returns and where we’ll need to increase return is in knowledge and ingenuity,” he said.
Professor Green said while certain parts of manufacturing “will not have a part in the future of Australia”, advanced manufacturing would remain crucial.