Business Chamber to help reawaken, boost ACT’s export industries

Ian Bushnell30 June 2022
Graham Catt

Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt: the chamber will help businesses resume exporting, identify new entrants and forge new trade links. Photo: Supplied.

Canberra Business Chamber has again won an ACT Government contract to help local businesses develop export markets, but this time the term has been extended to enhance its ability to kickstart the Territory’s export activity so disrupted by the pandemic.

Chamber CEO Graham Catt said that coming out of the pandemic, when businesses would be trying to restore broken trade links and new ones looking for a range of new markets, the government believed a longer contract term would be more worthwhile.

“There was a recognition by both government and us that the amount of time spent every 12 months on the contract, rather than on delivering outcomes for business, wasn’t really helpful to either the government, us or the businesses we’re trying to help,” he said.

The $485,000, two-year and two-month contract with options to extend is for International Business Engagement Program services that aim to boost the number of exporters and their goods, educate businesses about export opportunities, and forge connections with exporters, trade officers and international chambers.

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The chamber will conduct information sessions, workshops and events; match potential exporters with overseas buyers; identify companies for mentoring; connect them to diplomatic and grant opportunities; raise awareness of the Chief Minister’s Export Awards, renew memoranda of understanding with Wellington and Singapore; and identify new partner cities.

Mr Catt said the chamber would help exporters that lost their markets when borders closed and travel was restricted to get them back or find new ones.

It also wanted to find businesses that were considering exporting before the pandemic and wanted to have another go.

“They may be again starting to think about moving into those markets and a large part of what we do is help those companies understand how they do that, what resources they can tap into and how they make that happen. So there’ll be very significant sources to identify those emerging exporters,” Mr Catt said.

He said sectors being targeted for export potential include education, technology, cyber, government services and defence, but the chamber would also reconnect the region’s food producers to previous markets such as Singapore, and new ones through the Canberra Airport freight hub.

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The chamber would also be bringing businesses up to speed with new trade agreements, including those struck with India and the UK.

There was also a drive to diversify export markets, particularly as the Chinese market since the pandemic had become more problematic for Australia.

This includes Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and Thailand.

“There’s been a change in the markets that our exporters are going to be accessing,” Mr Catt said.

“The government has an international business engagement strategy, so where are they looking to get market access? What particular areas of business and industry are they looking to develop as exporters, and how do we help the exporting companies understand where those market opportunities may be?”

Mr Catt said the contract would not inhibit the chamber’s role as an advocate, and the money was not a significant proportion of the chamber’s income.

“We don’t believe in this case that it does compromise our ability to actually provide the feedback and sometimes robust feedback that we need to provide to the government,” he said.

Mr Catt said the contract gave the chamber the opportunity to work with businesses beyond its membership.

“Building networks and exporting businesses in the ACT is a very important activity and it’s something that really sits best with a chamber or with an independent organisation like us rather than government directly,” he said.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on Riotact.

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