Export Council of Australia makes ‘urgent’ appeal for bipartisan action on trade policy overhaul

The Export Council of Australia has made its case to the federal government for a trade policy overhaul, stating there is a “dire need” to remove impediments to international trade.

In its Trade Policy Recommendations report, the council has highlighted that trade is “absolutely crucial” to Australia’s economic prosperity. It has called on both Labor and the Coalition to focus on the importance of trade and remove impediments that hinder Australia’s ability to compete internationally.

The ECA is “urgently” requesting the government address issues including competitiveness, infrastructure, trade promotion and international engagement.

It wants red tape inefficiencies cut, Australia’s ageing infrastructure overhauled in favour of innovation, and much greater investment in promoting Australian trade on an international scale.

ECA executive chairman Ian Murray told SmartCompany this morning that in the lead up to the election, the ECA felt it important to highlight its concerns. He said politicians from across the political spectrum have responded well to the report’s recommendations.

“I think people on both sides of Parliament are aware of the difficulties facing exporters,” he says. “And I think they are also very aware of the need for Australia to become more competitive.”

Murray says the ECA’s recommendations hinge on the need for Australian trade to be more competitive.

“We have to have an infrastructure regime that is going to be efficient, and is going to allow us to move product from A to B in the most efficient way so that we can keep our costs down.

“From a promotional point of view, we have to make sure that we spend at a level that is equal to, if not better than, other parts of the world.”

He wants to raise awareness of the importance of trade to the prosperity of the economy.

“It is about half of our GDP and employs an enormous number of people and it should not to be seen as something that just happens in another part of the world.

“It fosters innovation, and I think as far as Australia is concerned, it fosters prosperity and we think it should be higher on the agenda.”

Other points in the recommendations include a program that addresses the potential for market failure in manufacturing, creating new versions of infrastructure bonds or other investment vehicles, and the establishment of a trade and investment committee of cabinet.

Murray says trade should be a bipartisan issue and declined to say which party would offer a better outcome for trade after the September 7 federal election.

“We are open-minded, to be honest with you; we need to be bipartisan when it comes to trade. Trade is something that is not really politically-driven.”


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