Want to join the PM on an overseas trip? Businesses won’t have to wait for an invite, Abbott reveals

A register at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will allow businesses to submit their interest in joining Prime Minister Tony Abbott on overseas trips.

The announcement was made by Abbott at a breakfast briefing in Jakarta on Monday, according to reports in The Australian.

Such a register would mark the first time the department allows businesses to nominate to join such delegations.

For medium-sized businesses, this presents the opportunity to be considered for such delegations, says Council of Small Business of Australia chief executive Peter Strong.

He says SMEs are rarely invited on such strips.

On Abbott’s most recent Indonesian trip, businesses in the group included some of Australia’s largest companies, such as ANZ, CBA, Leighton Holdings and Bluescope Steel.

However, while being involved in such delegations could offer plenty of benefits to small businesses, the cost involved means it’s something only medium-sized businesses could really contemplate, Strong says.

“It costs money. The government doesn’t put you up – and I’m not sure it should. You do have to pay your own way, so you’re looking at $10,000 or so to be involved.

“This is an opportunity for medium-sized businesses. But most small businesses couldn’t afford that. So while we think this is a good sign, there are cheaper ways of assisting small businesses to get access to these markets.”

A lot of government advice about exporting into foreign countries isn’t really tailored to small businesses, Strong says. He believes country-specific websites with legal and cultural information would more directly help small businesses.

“One of the things I really like to see is information about which SMEs are already involved in foreign countries. SMEs help each other out, so if there are ways for successful businesses to tell their story, I think that goes a long way into making it easier.”

Practical information, like where to access good translators, would also ease small businesses into Asia.

“This register is good, because it’ll show people that small businesses are interested in these things. Even if few small businesses end up attending, it’ll start the conversation.

“We’ve had informal conversations with the current government about how to make it easier for SMEs to attend these things and gain benefit. There’s recognition that, in the past, SMEs were just left out because of cost. So being open to businesses nominating themselves, we think that’s a very good sign.”

At an Australian-Israel Chamber of Commerce event yesterday, Commonwealth Bank chief Ian Narev said heavy business attendance at Abbott’s recent visit had benefited relationships with Indonesia “significantly,” according to Business Insider.

However, Narev revealed the 20 chief executives who were invited by the department were given only 10 days’ notice.


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