The Federal Election is over and the new Minister for Trade and Investment is the Hon Andrew Robb AO, MP. Canberra Business Council and the ACT Exporters’ Network look forward to a long and productive relationship with the Minister in developing export trade by businesses based in the National Capital.
There are a number of issues which the Exporters’ Network and the Council will be bringing to the attention of the Minister.
TradeStart support for Canberra-based businesses
Canberra’s business sector, though small compared to the major metropolitan centres, includes some of Australia’s most innovative businesses. Companies such as Aspen Medical, Seeing Machines, Inteledox, Funnelback, Windlab, Sentinel and many others are at the forefront of innovation in their respective fields. However, in global terms, they are almost all SMEs, which means that they have limited capacity to develop and expand their export trade activities. TradeStart support provides a vitally important resource to assist SMEs into export. We are glad to note the Coalition’s intention to boost the competitiveness of Australia’s SME sector generally. However, at the present time, Canberra-based SMEs do not have direct access to TradeStart support. The ACT-based TradeStart adviser position was abolished several years ago and the nearest adviser is based in Wagga Wagga and has a food and agri-business focus. It is vital to the continued growth of Canberra’s high-technology SME export sector for a TradeStart representative to be based in Canberra, so that he or she can provide higher levels of service and a greater awareness of the specific issues of Canberra-based SMEs.
Austrade’s reduced support for exporters targeting the developed markets – the USA, Canada and the European Union.
While it is encouraging that the Coalition supports assistance for Australian exporters to benefit from the continued strong economic growth of the Asian region particularly as the economic benefits of our increased engagement with Asia over the past few decades have been truly remarkable. However, the previous government, in implementing its approach, had directed Austrade to cease providing tailored in-country services, such as potential customer and partner identification, introductions, appointments and business matching services to exporters targeting the USA, Canada and the European Union, and instead, focusing these tailored services solely on emerging markets in the Asian region. While there is no doubt the overall business environment is more complex in most of Asia than it is in the US or Western Europe, the fact is that much of our trade with Asia is carried out in areas such as minerals, energy, agriculture, tourism and education, by well-established, larger exporters who already have substantial knowledge of their target customers. Meantime, many of our hightechnology SME exporters (and this is especially true of Canberra-based exporters) are targeting markets in the USA, Canada and the European Union, where the competition is the most intense of any in the world. We believe it is vitally important to Australia’s high-technology exporting SMEs for Austrade to restore the provision of tailored partner identification and business matching services in the USA, Canada and the European Union if they are to continue growing and helping to diversify Australia’s export base.
Proposed changes to the Export Market Development Grant (EMDG) scheme
The Exporters’ Network is glad to note the Coalition’s policy of an additional $50 million in funding for the EMDG scheme and recommends that the changes proposed by the previous government in its Export Development Grands Amendment Bill 2013 be scrapped. We are particularly concerned that the proposed changes would exclude expenses relating to sales promotion in the USA, Canada and the European Union in applications made in the sixth, seventh and eighth year of applications. As noted above, Australian companies exporting to those countries require the same levels of support in getting themselves established in those fiercely competitive environments as do exporters targeting other regions.