Representatives from various states are all racing off overseas in the hopes that they can convince foreign companies to settle in their corner of Australia's soil or buy products from local companies.
Victoria has its "Super Trade Mission to India" in late February 2012, where 100 "world-class" Victorian companies from various industries, including ICT, will take part in a jaunt to India in the hopes of strengthening ties with the country, capitalising Victoria as a place for the headquarters of Indian companies and convincing it to become a stronger importer of Victorian goods.
This followed a trade mission last year, led by the state's innovation minister, which Victoria believed would net 570 new jobs in Victoria.
Meanwhile, the Australian Financial Review ran a story this morning about NSW Deputy Premier and Trade Minister Andrew Stoner, who is heading off on a 10-day trade mission, which will focus on biotech and information technology, taking him to the US, Hong Kong and Japan.
It said that Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser has also been overseas this year to help the economy after the floods, while Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett travelled to China.
In 2010, even Tasmania sent a trade mission to China of ICT businesses to network.
Trade missions are about establishing relationships and raising profiles. But I wonder whether having multiple states and organisations heading out overseas to make their pitch could be confusing the matter. After all, do foreign countries really want to know why it's so much better to settle in NSW than Victoria, or vice versa? Is having multiple trade missions a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, or is it a zero-sum game, so that by having competing trade missions we're stealing each other's business, while still spending the large amounts of money to send people overseas?
Of course, there's a lot of countries out there, and the trade missions aren't going to the same place, which would suggest that the former suggestion is the right one. But I'm not sure. In times where budgets are going to be trimmed, it might make sense to look at the efficiency of some of the investments we make.
Has your business been helped by a trade mission? Have you gained a job because of a trade mission?