FutureAsia Boosting Australian Exports and Jobs

Labor today released the next part of its FutureAsia policy – to help Australian businesses sell more goods and services to Asia and create more local jobs.

Australia is a trading nation – one in five Australian jobs are currently linked to trade.  The more we export the more jobs we create – and better paying jobs.

The rise of Asia creates enormous opportunities.  The challenge is to make the most of it.

Trade agreements are just the start. When we open doors we have to make sure Australian businesses go through them.

Often it is non-tariff barriers and a lack of Asian business skills and experience that stops Australian businesses from exporting to Asia.

That’s why a Shorten Labor Government will:

  • Pursue an agreement with the Chinese Government to allow young Australian professionals to gain experience in the Chinese market by undertaking an internship in China for up to six months to help build the Asian business capability of young Australian professionals.  The French Government negotiated a deal like this two years ago.  It is a reciprocal deal for young professionals in each country. This builds on announcement by the Shadow Treasurer to pilot a mentoring program get more Australians with experience in Asia on to the boards of Australian companies.  
  • Make Australia Week in China an annual event.  This is currently held every two years.  China is our biggest trading partner.  Its GDP is expected to triple from $15 trillion to $45 trillion by the middle of this century.  According to the Government  this event generates $1 billion in export sales and $3 billion in investment.  If only a fraction of this is true it makes sense to make Australia Week in China an annual event.
  • Establish a joint team made up of officers from DFAT, Austrade, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Industry to better coordinate the work the Australian government does in helping Australian businesses tackle non-tariff barriers (NTB) in potential export markets.  A lot of Australian businesses tell us the biggest challenge they currently face are non-tariff barriers. At the moment responsibility for this work is broken up into a number of different government agencies.  This will provide a single point of accountability.  The team will work with Australian businesses on plans to address the NTB issues they face and will report to a Committee of Cabinet.

To address the rising public scepticism about trade and open markets and make sure Australian signs up to high quality trade agreements, a Shorten Labor Government will also:

  • Ask the Productivity Commission to conduct an independent economic analysis of each new free trade agreement before it is signed.
  • Ask the Productivity Commission to independently review free trade agreements 10 years after they are signed to see what the impact of them has been – where they have worked and where they have not.  Good companies do this.  It is the best way to learn and improve. Governments should do the same thing.
  • Increase the role of business in trade negotiations for all future bilateral free trade agreements to make sure we get the right outcomes. In the Indonesian FTA negotiations currently being finalised business leaders from Australia and Indonesia came together and provided both countries with advice on where the trade negotiations should be focused, what the key impediments were and how they can be overcome.  This is a good model and will be adopted for future bilateral free trade negotiations. It’s also a model that could potentially work for other organisations like unions.

Today’s announcement build’s on the policies announced by Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen when he launched Labor’s FutureAsia Plan in September this year and by Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong earlier this month.


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