Campaign promises for export grants

 Exporters could be set to benefit from an election campaign arm wrestle between Labor and Liberal over the Export Market Development Grants scheme.

In a speech this week, Labor’s trade spokesman Simon Crean flagged that Labor is considering policy changes to restore and strengthen the EMDG scheme, which he argues has been “run down” by the Government.

Crean argues the scheme’s $15,000 minimum threshold on marketing spending means some small business cannot access the scheme and that exporters of services sometimes find it difficult to fit the criteria for the scheme.

Both major political parties are reportedly considering announcing changes to the scheme during the election campaign.

It has been the subject of several reviews and committee inquiry’s over the years, with the most recent investigation earlier this year finding that the system of reimbursement for past expenditure used by the scheme was leaving exporters uncertain about how much money they would get back from the scheme.

But Australian Institute of Export executive director Ian Murray says, on the whole, the EMDG scheme is working well and providing significant benefits to the exporter sector.

“The scheme is very well used and it’s one of the quiet achievers. A lot of companies we converse with will say ‘without the program we probably wouldn’t be able to be as succesful as we have been’.” Murray says.

He argues that, apart from additional funding to the scheme’s current $150 million per year, some additional flexibility in how long exporters can access money may be helpful.

“If we want to maximise export opportunities we should give those companies who have already used the grants program, and run their time, a chance back in if they have new products or if new markets open up because of free trade agreements and the like,” Murray says.

He disagrees with the view that services exporters are finding it difficult to fit the eligibility criteria for the scheme.

“A lot of services companies, especially those involved in inbound tourism, already use the program pretty strongly. You can always make it better of course, but I think the service sector does alright out of it,” Murray says.


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