Friday, Feb. 24, 2017

Where to now for Australia's Trade Policy?

By Export Council of Australia · May 03, 2013

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“So here we sit, comfortable, but are we just a tad too comfortable? My view is more than likely the latter. Things in the “land of Oz” are, I suggest, not quite as sound as we perhaps think they are. From an export perspective, apart from mining, buisiness has slowed and one cannot see that changing for some time. Our Asian markets will remain under attack; the dollar is unlikely to drop dramatically unless US interest rates move strongly ahead and minerals sales falter. And international competition in our domestic markets will, in many sectors, remain high as marketers capitalise on low currencies to offset slow local demand. The result, I fear, is a significant change in the shape of the export pie with dangerously less diversity and a greater reliance on mining. This will affect jobs in the eastern states, the effect of which will be felt right across Australian business.”  

 Sadly, nothing seems to have changed very much. There is a lot of talk about “Australia in the Asian Century” and even more talk about the need to address a likely decline in resource driven export revenue by supporting export sectors that have been neglected for five or more years. It seems quite unbelievable, I know, particularly when other competing countries have been pushing every button they have to stimulate economic growth through building export revenue.  And let us not forget that trade constitutes 50% of Australia’s GDP.

It is nice to see that the penny may have finally dropped, but talk is simply not enough. Sadly it is not as simple as turning on the tap and all will be well. This Government and the incoming government must have clear strategies and plans to address trade issues and from where we sit that means putting as much effort into domestic trade related strategies as on those emanating from off-shore. 

To be competitive and in a position to capitalise on the opportunities flowing from the massive growth in Asia’s middle class, we must address the following:  
  • Australia’s Competitiveness - are we being left behind? What do we need to do to build productivity and rid Australia of unnecessary red tape?
  • The lack of investment in Trade Promotion - who will put the money up to fully capitalise on the Asian Century opportunities particularly in food?
  • Ageing infrastructure – this was the biggest issue to emerge from the recent Australian Logistics Council Forum.
  • The need for greater collaboration between government agencies and government & industry
  • The need for a stronger TRADE focus for DFAT 
The ECA has a five point agenda in its Trade Policy paper to be tabled in May. The paper will call on government to:
  1. Address International Trade as an essential aspect of domestic economic policy
  2. Incorporate International Trade in economic and physical infrastructure and investment
  3. Rigorously review all aspects of regulation (both red and green tape) and increase the focus on competition policy
  4. Re-evaluate policy settings in foreign trade negotiations to place greater emphasis on trade.
  5. Ensure International Trade is becomes a “whole of Government” issue
Ian Murray
Executive Director-Export Council of Australia
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