While assisting their Australian clients ahead of the introduction of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP-11), organisers say the Mexico program has exposed students to a process of experiential and integrated learning, so called ‘messy’ or ill-defined problems and an opportunity to deepen partnerships with external stakeholders.
Mexico is the second largest and most interconnected economy on the continent and government reforms have opened up new opportunities for Australian business.
“Mexico's network of free trade agreements is a strategic gateway to the Americas,” said Mexico’s Trade Commissioner to Australia, Esau Garza. “Now that both Australia and Mexico have signed TPP-11, these trade and investment links will only strengthen.”
“The projects with the University of Sydney are a great way to raise the awareness among Australian companies and identify real business opportunities for the participating companies and students,” Mr Garza said.
Before going to Mexico, students formed small consulting teams, each of which was allocated to a local company interested in learning more about business opportunities in the country. “This allowed the students, who are studying for a Master of International Business, to put all their acquired knowledge into practice,” said unit lecturer Dr Jacqueline Mees-Buss.
“In Mexico, the students worked on their projects and engaging with industry bodies, suppliers, customers and consultants. They were required to analyse possible markets for their Australian clients, establish cross-cultural relationships, develop strategic options and design international business operations.”
The program was strongly supported by Australia’s trade promotion organisation, Austrade, and its Mexican counterpart, ProMexico.
"Austrade Mexico supported the program as it demonstrated how international trade can contribute to Australia’s economic prosperity in a very real and practical way," said Australian Trade Commissioner to Mexico and Central America, Dr Nicholas Baker, who is based in Mexico City.
"Sydney students got to see and experience firsthand how their market research and insights can help Australian businesses develop international markets and promote their products and capabilities. The group also learned that not all markets are the right fit."
One of the participating companies, Tractile, worked with a team of students to investigate manufacturing opportunities in Mexico for its unique solar-roofing system.
"The feasibility study gave us excellent insights into investing in Mexico, the partnerships and pitfalls – Tractile will certainly follow up with the contacts made to explore setting up a manufacturing facility," said company director Bertio Terpstra.
"I was very impressed with the number of senior people the team met and the detailed information extracted," Mr Terpstra said. "The preparation by the University of Sydney for this case study was efficient and there was little effort required by us. The turnaround was fast and the results are very useful."
The students rapidly came to understand that their studies needed to be "translated" into the real world, said Dr Mees-Buss. “The problems they were presented with were not so clean-cut as most of the case studies in their textbooks and they had to figure out which tools to pull out of their analytical toolbox in order to tackle the problems," she said.
Austrade’s Dr Nic Baker said: "The program was both practical and educational and the graduates involved are the international business development managers of the future."