Former Minister for Trade
Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

22 September 2008

Mortimer Review of Export Policies and Programs

The Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, today released the report of the independent Review of Export Policies and Programs undertaken by Mr David Mortimer AO and Dr John Edwards. 

This is the most comprehensive review of Australia's approach to trade and international investment in more than a decade. It also includes an assessment of free trade agreements and the Export Market Development Grants scheme.  

"I would like to record my appreciation to David Mortimer and John Edwards for their excellent work in reviewing Australia's trade policies and programs and for providing recommendations to the Government to bring about an improvement in Australia's trade performance," Mr Crean said.

"The Mortimer Review highlights the deterioration in Australia's trade performance, despite the resources boom, as nearly two-thirds of Australia's cumulative trade deficit over the last 20 years has been incurred in the last five years.

"Much of the deterioration in Australia's trade performance can be attributed to the decline in productivity growth in the second half of the 1990s as the Howard Government failed to build on the economic reforms of Hawke and Keating Governments," said Mr Crean.

"The Government is committed to turning our productivity performance around as it is the key to our future economic growth and prosperity.

"The nature of international trade and investment is also changing.  To remain competitive in this new environment, Australian companies will increasingly need to become part of global and regional supply chains.

"To achieve this, Mortimer recommends a coordinated economic reform agenda across Government to boost our international competitiveness.  This is essential to restart productivity growth, to improve our trade performance and to ensure that net exports once again make a positive contribution to economic growth," said Mr Crean. 

The Government has already made a significant down payment on improving our trade performance. The Mortimer report's recommendations provide direction to build on the steps we have already taken including: a recalibration of our trade negotiating policy so that conclusion of the WTO Doha Round is central to our efforts; completing negotiations on two free trade agreements – with Chile and ASEAN; unfreezing the FTA negotiations with China; advancing FTA negotiations with Japan; bringing forward the FTA study with India; establishing new coordination structures at the whole-of-government and whole-of-governments level via COAG; modernising and strengthening the EMDG scheme with an additional $50 million for 2009-10; and consolidating trade and investment responsibilities within Austrade. 

"At a time of global financial uncertainty improving our trade performance becomes even more important. It is critical that the Government provide Australian business and the broader community with certainty and confidence for the future.  This report is an important building block in our plan for achieving this.

"The reforms of the last Labor Government prepared Australia well to weather the East Asian financial crisis in 1997. The new reform agenda of the Rudd Labor Government will build on those earlier reforms which also ensure that Australia is well placed to deal with the current global financial instability.  

The Review team received over 160 written submissions and held consultations with over 170 organisations and individuals in all state and territory capitals.

The Government will consider the Review's recommendations and responds in detail later in the year. 

In Parliament today, Minister Crean also tabled an assessment of the Export Market Development Grants (EMDG) scheme undertaken concurrently with the Review.  Mr Crean noted that the Review had found that the EMDG scheme had provided significant benefit to exporters and the economy as a whole and that the Government should continue to invest in the scheme.

The Review report and Export Market Development Grant scheme assessment are available on the DFAT website: http://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/export_review/index.html

Media Inquiries: Mr Crean's office 02 6277 7420 - Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555