Push to improve SME exports

07 March, 2018

The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade has started an inquiry to help small and medium-sized businesses pursue export opportunities offered by free trade agreements.

Trade sub-committee chair Ted O’Brien says parliamentarians want to understand the opportunities and challenges faced by small and medium-sized enterprises who seek to drive export of their goods and services into countries with free trade agreements.

“We really want to hear from Australian small and medium-sized businesses that have successfully taken advantage of free trade agreements to export their goods or services into new markets across north Asia, and more established markets too such as New Zealand, the United States, Thailand, Singapore and Chile,” O’Brien says.

“But we also want to learn from the experiences of those small and medium-sized businesses which have either been wary of the risks or costs involved in exporting, or those who have tried but not succeeded with exporting into the growing list of countries with which Australia secured free trade agreements.”

O’Brien believes the time is right for this inquiry to better support Australian small to medium exporters. Australia has recently signed a new trade agreement with Peru and is on the verge of signing the final Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 Pacific-rim countries, including new trading partners (Canada and Mexico) this month.

“We want insights into how supportive federal, state and territory governments and also business networks have been in encouraging smaller exporters to leverage FTAs into worthwhile new export opportunities,” he says.

“There are many great Australian companies that have been able to capitalise on the opportunities presented by these free trade agreements.  We want to ensure the benefits can be replicated many times over for other export-oriented businesses.

“A lack of awareness of free trade agreement benefits has been raised as one of the obstacles for many smaller businesses wanting to export.”

He says feedback is being sought from small and medium businesses with two or three years of  experience trading goods and services in Japan and China (which both signed free trade agreements in 2015) as well as Korea (which signed a free trade agreement in 2014).

The trade sub-committee invites submissions from any individuals, businesses or organisations with an interest in the issues raised by the inquiry’s terms of reference.

Submissions addressing all or some of the terms of reference should be lodged by 20 April 2018.

The inquiry will also conduct a series of roundtables around Australia to help gather feedback and suggestions from small business exporters keen to leverage free trade agreement opportunities.

Further details about the about the inquiry, including terms of reference and details on how to contribute a submission, can be obtained from the committee’s website or by contacting the committee secretariat.

► Want to take advantage of export opportunities? Learn how at CCI’s inaugural International Engagement and Growth Conference on 9 May. Register your interest here.