Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017

What Steve Ciobo and Penny Wong need to know about giant lobsters

By Tania Monton · June 07, 2016

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For three generations, the Ferguson family has been fishing Southern Rock Lobsters out of the Great Australian Bight. But they had a problem: too many lobsters were too big.

It sounds strange but it was the smaller lobsters which provided the higher prices. So in 2003 the family established Ferguson Australia to market a premium range of seafood and better capture the value of the big crays.

The challenge was to identify demand in key markets. And the likely destination, as with many premium Australian products, was offshore. But identifying, breaking into and capitalising on the opportunity was no small feat.

Free trade agreements (FTAs) have been a critical part of the answer. 

Through utilising FTAs, leveraging government support and teaming with the right partners, the Ferguson’s have been able to grow their output by 200 per cent over the last 12 months.

I was so inspired by this incredible success story. Here was a home grown family company, realising their dreams, putting Australia on the global stage for premium and quality produce.

We need to see more examples like this and having the right Government policy will be key. 

And that’s why all eyes and ears will be on Penny Wong and Steve Ciobo this week. 

HIGH STAKES

On Tuesday ANZ is sponsoring the Trade Policy Launch in Sydney, where Minister for Trade and Investment, the Honorable Steven Ciobo, and Shadow Minister for Trade and Investment, Senator Penny Wong will present their views on issues pertinent to Australia’s international trade agenda.

Given the impending election, the stakes are high for both parties.

As the resource investment boom winds down, we are seeing more and more businesses from other sectors, especially in agriculture and services, take advantage of the significant international trade opportunities – but it’s clear, Australian businesses need more support.

I’ll be listening to what Minister Ciobo and Senator Wong say about policies to support trade liberalisation and enhance the global competitiveness of Australian businesses. I personally await their keynotes with great anticipation.

In my view, there are three critical issues that businesses face when growing offshore and politicians should address: 

  • Reduction of non-tariff barriers. Restrictive export quotas and embargoes are a significant impediment to trade flow. 

  • Decreasing the regulatory burden. Small-to-medium enterprises (SME’s) face significant regulatory costs and processes. Addressing this will empower them to better utilise time and deploy resources more effectively. 

  • Elimination of export red-tape onshore. We are often our own worst enemies. Many businesses grapple with Australia’s lengthy and complex onshore export processes and they often give up before even getting started.  

The new and proposed free trade agreements (FTAs), such as CHAFTA (China Australia) and TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership), have certainly given rise to optimism and created a renewed sense of energy around international trade but it’s not enough.

ANZ’s Opportunity Asia report shows FTA utilisation and awareness of FTA benefits among Australian businesses is extremely low.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. An increasing number of businesses are starting to identify opportunities abroad and many of them are looking to government for support. 

International trade is so incredibly important. It’s fundamental to Australia’s long-term prosperity and paramount for businesses with growth aspirations, especially in a subdued domestic economic environment.

If we could just tackle the some of the issues associated with non-tariff barriers, regulatory costs and onshore red tape that are holding our Aussie businesses back, the benefit to our economy would be significant. 

It’s not just up to government but on Tuesday at the Trade Policy Launch, I’m sure exporters will be siding with the party presenting policy that at least addresses these three matters and best supports and fosters trade.

Now, that’d be a great start.


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