With the China-Australia FTA having now entered into force and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement to be signed later this week, there is clearly significant momentum in the liberalisation of trade.
However there remains much work to be done on domestic barriers to trade, which can limit the gains and benefits from FTAs, the Export Council of Australia warned this week.
“There is no doubt that Free Trade Agreements are good news for Australian business but unless we address domestic barriers to trade and build capability and capacity these opportunities are likely to be lost to international counterparts,” the ECA said.
“It’s time for Australia to look beyond FTAs and approach trade policy from a broader, whole-of-government perspective.”
The ECA this week released its third annual Trade Policy Recommendations, following previous recommendations in 2013 and 2014. The document also address issues critical to the G20 nations and the Federal Government’s recent inquiries into services exports and businesses’ utilisation of FTAs.
The ECA’s chief executive officer Lisa McAuley said the council’s recommendations were intended to benefit Australian exporters of all sizes and across all industry sectors.
“Australian companies have a world of opportunities on offer and we applaud the Government’s continued efforts to break down barriers to trade, although more can be done. What is important now is that businesses have the information and support they need to leverage these global opportunities,” Ms McAuley said.
The ECA called on Government at all levels to focus on six core issues, which, it said if implemented would develop the capability and capacity of companies to take advantage of the abundant international opportunities, and improve Australia’s hard and soft infrastructure to better facilitate trade:
- Addressing Infrastructure Challenges & Improving Supply Chain Efficiencies: Australia’s infrastructure must improve to meet expectations and demand.
- Leverage Free Trade Agreements: Increasing businesses’ awareness and understanding of FTAs is key to delivering outcomes.
- Advancing Trade Development: Investing in trade is investing to grow.
- Improving Trade Facilitation: Improving the processes and regulations that govern the delivery of goods and services will facilitate more seamless trade.
- Growing Service Exports: Services are one of our strengths; we need to deliver to the world.
- Enhancing Two-way Investment: Investment is critical to Australia’s future prosperity.
Export Council of Australia director Andrew Hudson said the recommendations were focused on enhancing trade and investment outcomes, which are crucial for a strong, competitive economy that enables growth.
“Trade is vital to the Australian economy and we are keen to see more Australian businesses become outward looking, proactive in seeking opportunities abroad, and equipping themselves with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed,” Mr Hudson said.