Date posted: 30/03/2017 3 min read

Australia’s $80bn export growth at risk if the Government doesn’t educate businesses on benefits of trade deals

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) calls for shift in government trade priorities in the face of new research

CA ANZ is calling for government intervention to increase awareness of the benefits of free trade after new research revealed many businesses are failing to understand and realise the value of free trade deals.

International trade is under the spotlight following a rise in protectionism and the latest research from CA ANZ shows that the majority (64%) of Australian businesses think free trade agreements (FTAs) have no impact, are unsure of the impact or think these deals have a neutral impact.

The research is based on a survey of over 1,500 senior members of Australian and New Zealand businesses regarding their current trading arrangements and perceptions of future trade.

Lee White, CEO of CA ANZ, said “We’re forecasting Australian export growth of $80bn in the next five years, but we can only achieve that if the government focuses on educating businesses about the benefits of trade agreements. Negotiating deals is only half the battle.

“The survey revealed a real disconnect between the potential benefits of FTAs and the perceived or realised benefits for businesses. This means businesses are either failing to fully understand the benefits of FTAs or the deals are not delivering – either scenario requires urgent action from the government.

“We already have free trade agreements with our major trading partners and our research indicates the government should prioritise communicating the benefits of existing deals over establishing new agreements.”

A report prepared by Deloitte Access Economics - The Future of Trade - also calls for government to continue progressing multi-lateral trade agreements, while investing in technological and process improvements to reduce customs delays.

“In order to deliver on projected export growth we need to improve efficiencies and bring Australia in line with other global trade leaders. Despite not having a free trade agreement with the United States, New Zealand goods are less likely to be held up for examination at a port in the US than Australian goods due to New Zealand’s Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) programme,” Mr White said.

“While Australia is developing a mutual AEO agreement with the US, it’s early days yet and more work needs to be done in this space to improve trade efficiencies.”

Report co-author and partner at Deloitte Access Economics, David Rumbens, echoed the call for an enhanced government focus on streamlining border processing for businesses.

“Streamlining customs and border processing should be an absolute priority to ensure the free trade agreements secured with Australia’s major trading partners are working as effectively as possible,” Mr Rumbens said.

“Government facilitation, including steps towards digitising customs and border processing, would help improve outcomes for Australian exporters.”

More information

Read the Future of Trade: Are we ready to embrace the opportunities?

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