Canberra's International Engagement Strategy

International Engagement Strategy Summary

Confident. Bold. Ready.

Canberra is a dynamic, vibrant city where the interaction between government, science, research, arts, education and business fosters innovation and economic opportunity. Our growing and highly educated population, diverse knowledge-based industries, and high concentration of world-class research and cultural institutions are just some of our natural advantage that will catapult Canberra into becoming a globally recognised and respected 21st century city. Canberra will beknown as a city that builds on the region’s offering of agricultural, alpine and coastal experiences and produce.

The Commissioner for International  Engagement will oversee the International Engagement Strategy, an initiative of Confident and Business Ready: Building on our strengths. The Commissioner’s 2050 aspirations will be guided by the ACT Government’s ambition for Canberra. Our Statement of Ambition has four strategic directions of travel, each with their  own international dimensions.

Statement of Ambition - 2050 Vision for Canberra

To be recognised as one of the world's great innovation, creative and art cities while remaining the world's most liveable city

Direction of travel 1: Attract and retain talented people

  • To be recognised globally we must be ranked globally as an innovation city–a creative city–an arts city of the future.
  • Canberra will be globally recognised for knowledge creation, innovation and research translation. We will be Australia’s leading innovation jurisdiction.

Direction of travel 2:  Continuing to open and diversify our local economy

  • Canberra will be globally recognised as a centre of expertise and information translation across the key capability areas
  • Growth in our direct international flight connections to Canberra Airport.
  • In the Asian century, Canberra will become more culturally diverse with deeper engagement with Asian cultures and values.
  • The ACT will have a coordinated and targeted ministerial, government and industry engagement program with our target markets and Asian neighbours.
  • Canberra aims to be top-of-mind for ideas, study, investment and visitation supported by consistent and deeply embedded brand.

Direction of travel 3: Deliver better metropolitan infrastructure

  • The ACT Government will ensure we have the infrastructure required to be an internationally competitive city for business, leisure and life.

Direction of travel 4: Embrace the digital mindset and deliver smart city initiatives

  • Canberra will be at the forefront of smart city technology creation, adoption and knowledge sharing and recognised for this internationally.

Canberra's Competitive Advantage

The ACT Government is focused on realising an economic strategic vision for Canberra that capitalises on its well-educated and productive labour force, world-class research and development, scientific and technological reputation. Canberra is the seat of the Australian Government where major policy development and procurement decisions are made. Canberra is home to an extensive diplomatic community. These attributes, together with Canberra’s enviable lifestyle, strong and stable economy, and business-friendly environment, has led to its recognition as one of the Asia Pacific’s cities of the future.

Canberra's Key Capability Areas - A Framework

The strategy sets up a framework  for assessing whether government resources can justifiably be directed towards a particular international market. In making such assessments consideration is given to:

  • the level of alignment with Canberra’s key capability areas;
  • economic indicators; and
  • the strategic importance of the relationship.

The International Engagement Strategy recognises that individual key capability areas have their own strategies with specific actions to support the government’s economic diversification objectives.

These include: Confident and Business Ready: Building on our strengths; Canberra Australia’s Education Capital: an International Education Strategy  for Canberra; and Tourism 2020: Growing the Visitor Economy 2014-20. The International Engagement Strategy builds on these individual strategies by targeting markets that are important for delivering the goals outlined in these individual strategies. The International Engagement Strategy also links broadly across Government as to how we achieve our  international aspirations.

Key Capability Areas

Key Capability Areas

  • Education and Research
  • Tourism
  • Defence & Cyber Security
  • Renewable Energy
  • ICT & e-Government
  • Space & Spatial Science
  • Health & Sports Science

Economic Indicators

  • Two-way trade with Australia
  • Foreign Direct Investment
  • Current and potential economic growth
  • Existence of Free Trade Agreements with Australia
  • Source of international visitors
  • Source of international students
  • Gross and concentrated potential for commercial engagement

Strategic Importance

  • Transport links
  • Formal government to government ties
  • Current and potential for education and research partnerships
  • Overall alignment with ACT Government's strategic vision

Priority International Markets - The Result

Applying this criteria five international priority markets, and within them priority cities, have been identified for immediate targeted engagement. First and foremost, the transport links with Singapore and New Zealand are important to demonstrate our international relevance. We must also go to the countries that have strong alignment sectorally and strategically. Our research demonstrates that within China and the US are our greatest opportunities for enhanced trade. We will continue to foster our formal sister city relationships in Japan, China and New Zealand. Canberra recognises the opportunity which the Asian Century provides and we will work to capitalise on that opportunity. The sector breakdown across these markets is indicated below.

Table showing priority interntional markets matched with Key Capability Areas. See table below

 Singapore New Zealand ChinaUSAJapan Greater Asia
Education and Research
Defence and Cyber Security  
Renewable Energy
ICT and e-Government  
Space and Spatial Science     
Health and Sports Science    


The ACT Government will focus on consolidating existing and growing new networks that support key capability areas. Short term priorities include:

  • establishing destination marketing partnerships with Tourism Australia and Singapore Airlines to drive inbound visitation.
  • growing international education partnerships with the education sector through Study Canberra.
  • leveraging the Australian Government’s Singapore ‘Landing Pad’ to support entrepreneurship and growth of the innovation ecosystem.
  • building relationships and driving investment opportunities linked to priority capability areas of space and spatial science, defence and cyber security.
  • supporting regional freight opportunities and product exports to Singapore in partnership with the CBR Region.

New Zealand

The ACT will continue to foster the strong partnership  that has been established with Wellington City Council under the Sister City agreement. This will include:

  • partnerships that facilitate tourism promotion, marketing and product development.
  • government to government collaboration and knowledge sharing across economic, environmental and social priorities.
  • jointly supporting innovation and technology start-up ecosystems.
  • collaboration on opportunities to secure events, grow partnerships and increase participation in sport.
  • mutual exchange regarding smart city technologies and implementation.
  • mutual exchange of delegations that connect Wellington City Council and the ACT Government.
  • programs that support opportunities for Indigenous people from both countries.


The ACT Government will continue to foster formal relationships with Beijing and Shenzhen and promote informal relationships in the wider Guangdong region. Activity will focus on:

  • growing international education partnerships with the education sector through Study Canberra.
  • growing international visitation in partnership with Tourism Australia and travel trade through VisitCanberra.
  • leveraging the established relationship with Shenzhen to provide opportunities for the start-up ecosystem, attract venture capital, and create innovation and R&D partnerships.
  • promoting and leveraging opportunities linked to the Australian Government ‘Landing Pad’ in Shanghai.
  • supporting regional freight opportunities and product exports to China with out partners in the CBR Region.

United States of America (US)

The ACT Government will focus on programs that grow export opportunities and promote investment in the Key Capability areas. Short term priorities include:

  • promoting and leveraging opportunities linked to the Australian Government ‘Landing Pad’ in San Francisco.
  • delivering targeted programs that promote opportunity for investment in priority capability areas, particularly, cyber security, space and spatial science, defence, ICT and renewable energy.
  • linking trade mission activity to Australian Government initiatives or major trade events that enable business-to-business connections.
  • ensuring city-to-city engagement continues to enhance relationships already established with San Francisco, Washington DC, Austin and Portland.


The ACT Government will focus on growing the profile of the CBR brand in the Japanese market. Short-term priorities include:

  • further promoting the Nara-Canberra Sister City relationship.
  • exploring potential opportunities in Japan’s renewable energy sector.
  • maintaining our deep financial connections particularly in relation to Government bonds.

Broader Asian Engagement in the Asian Century

The Asian Century provides a tremendous opportunity for Canberra Region to provide high value-add services and experiences.

The strategy recognises the significant opportunities in India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and South Korea for the Canberra Region. It outlines engagement strategies for developing and strengthening links with the ACT. The ACT Government will engage in Asian markets with target actions including:

  • encouraging Canberra-based businesses with an interest in the Indonesian market to engage in the Australian Government's public submissions process.
  • building relationships to facilitate business opportunities once the Indonesia-Australia Closer Economic Partnership Agreement is concluded and in effect.
  • growing international education partnerships with the education sector through Study Canberra in relevant markets in partnership with key institutions.
  • exploring opportunities linked to the priority sector of renewable energy in South Korea.

The ACT Government will focus on growing the profile of the CBR brand in the Indian market. Short-term priorities include:

  • encouraging Canberra-based businesses with an interest in the Indian market to engage in the Australian Government's public submissions process.
  • growing international education partnerships with the education sector through Study Canberra.
  • growing international visitation in partnership with Tourism Australia and travel trade through VisitCanberra.

Formal Frameworks of Engagement

The ACT Government is fortunate to have a number of formal frameworks with municipal governments in place that serve to strengthen our international ties both on a cultural and economic level. The Commissioner for International Engagement will continue to  grow these relationships to our mutual benefit.

Sister city relationships:

  • Nara, Japan
  • Beijing, China
  • Wellington, New Zealand

MOU of economic cooperation:

  • Shenzen, China

Friendship agreements:

  • Dili, Timor-Leste
  • Hangzhou, China

The ACT Government will consider on a case-by-case basis the opportunity for new formal relationships, taking into account the commitment of both parties and the Government’s capacity to appropriately resource the relationship.

Broader Global Engagement

The ACT Government will look to maintain our historical relationships in countries across Europe, including the United Kingdom, beyond the target markets. We will on a case-by-case basis look to create and grow relationships with countries and companies where our joint interests closely align. Moreover, we will partner with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to promote the ACT’s international trade and education, investment, and tourism interests. Our partnership with the Australian Government may see broad activities in the Arab States of the Gulf Coast, the Pacific Alliance and through the broader Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. We will capitalise on our relationship with the Australian Government and our significant infrastructure program to build Canberra's reputation globally.

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