Taking trade beyond government

  • Speech, check against delivery

Australian Centre for International Trade and Investment Conference 2023 Launch of the National Trade Survey, Canberra

Good afternoon,

I begin by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet, and pay my respect to Elders past, present and emerging.

I wish to acknowledge and thank the organisers and supporters of today's event, including:

  • Andrew McKellar, CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry;
  • Pru Gordon, Executive Director of the Australian Centre for Trade and Investment; and
  • Mark Whelan, Group Executive Institutional, ANZ.

The transition to clean energy, and net-zero emissions is one of the most complex challenges we have faced in the modern era.

Today's conference is an opportunity to explore practical steps we can take to adapt and become more resilient.

Diversifying trade to improve resilience

The solutions to climate change already exist.

But the success of their implementation will be contingent on how well we structure our trade and investment relationships.

For a country like ours, a healthy, diverse international trade portfolio is vital to our prosperity.

To our economic prosperity – that's obvious…

But to our social, health and environmental prosperity as well.

Free, fair and open international trade, underpinned by the rules-based multilateral trading system, has a reverberating impact on society.

The benefits flow to all aspects of everyday life. More trade means more well-paying jobs, more opportunities for business and workers, and more national income.

Expanding and diversifying our trade and investment flows will make us more resilient to challenging circumstances at home and abroad.

When our exporters do well, so does our Budget. And a stronger budget bottom line helps to pay for things like Medicare and rental assistance.

So, thank you again to today's event organisers for all you do to raise the awareness of the importance of international trade to Australia's prosperity.

2023 National Trade Survey

It is a pleasure to be invited to launch the results of the Sixth National Trade Survey undertaken by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Albanese Government places great importance on feedback from businesses, unions and the community to help shape policy considerations and processes.

That is why the Trade 2040 Taskforce will meet soon and provide advice on the Government's trade agenda.

That is why I will be chairing later this week, the second gathering of the Ministerial Council on Trade and Investment.

And that is why I recently asked the Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth to undertake an inquiry into the process of negotiating trade and investment agreements.

The National Trade Survey is an important tool to gauge businesses sentiment.

Most of what it reveals this year are things we'd expect of an economy emerging from a global pandemic, transitioning to net-zero emissions, and readjusting to unexpected and prolonged trade barriers.

It reinforces that the Albanese Labor Government's trade diversification strategy is the right approach.

In fact, it tells us that Australian businesses are driving the momentum behind the diversification of overseas trade.

For the first time the United States sits at the top of the most common markets for survey respondents, with a rapid increase in partnerships with the United Arab Emirates.

The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement is identified as the most useful.

The trade numbers clearly show that China remains our largest trading partner.

This government has been working hard to stabilise the trading relationship with China.

Communication has been critical to achieving this outcome – our approach is to prioritise discussion over dispute.

So far, this approach has proven effective. Just ask Australian producers of coal, copper, hay, cotton, timber logs, and barley, as well as the Australian tourism industry.

But, there remains several unresolved trade issues that we need to work through, including for Australian wine, lobsters and some red meat exporters.

The survey also tells us that there is appetite for more free trade arrangements, particularly those we are currently negotiating with the European Union and India.

Appetite for new agreements is welcome, but the survey reveals there is demand for more information about how to take advantage of Australia's existing trade agreements.

So we must continue to do everything we can to encourage uptake of trade and investment opportunities, so that business can leverage the benefits.

[Encouraging investment to meet contemporary challenges]

When we negotiate a trade agreement, we do so in the context of delivering on the national interest.

And every new agreement from here on in will create the strongest possible incentives for investment in clean energy.

Through trade we share the goods, the ideas, the inventions, the efficiencies – big and small – that make lives better and the future more resilient.

There are many examples I could draw upon to demonstrate this.

Allume Energy's SolShare system is one.

SolShare is the first rooftop solar panel system in the world that can be shared between apartments in the same building – and it was invented right here in Australia.

SolShare systems are now operating in Europe, the United States, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand.

Their fastest growing market is the UK, which has strong incentives to decarbonise council and social housing.

Earlier this year, Allume and the Welsh Government announced the first installation of SolShare technology for the UK's social housing sector.

This initiative has the potential to generate savings of about 50 per cent per household.

Allume intends to take advantage of our trade deal with the UK to expand its UK-based workforce, and make the system accessible to even more people in high-density living.

By negotiating more robust, comprehensive and focused trade agreements, we will incentivise investment in green technology and critical minerals.

In the last two years, Australia has entered into specific green energy partnerships with eight countries.

This includes the world's first Green Economy Agreement with Singapore.

The Green Economy Agreement creates incentives for investment in sustainably produced agriculture exports to Singapore.

It is the first of its kind and is intended as a model to be expanded to free trade agreements across the region.

Clean energy transition is also one of the key focus areas of Australia's Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040, launched last month.

We are also making good progress in negotiations for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, including its clean economy pillar.

The IPEF will create new markets for Australian businesses and progress towards common regional standards for trade and investment in green export sectors.

Taking trade beyond government

Negotiating agreements that meet the interests of all parties is challenging, that is no secret.

In the case of the European Union, extremely so.

But ultimately it ends up delivering opportunities for trade and investment, prosperity and resilience.

If we can land a deal with the EU, it will deepen and diversify our trade, expand opportunities for Australian exporters and strengthen our supply chains.

Australian farmers and agricultural producers will benefit, with the vast majority of EU tariffs on Australian agricultural products to be eliminated.

It will create more opportunities for our services exporters, improve our access to the EU's lucrative procurement market, and increase EU investment.

Acknowledging the need for a more diverse trade portfolio is acknowledging that – to use an old adage – if we want to go far, we must go together.

And not just together at an international level, but us – here in this room – together.

Within this context, this Government is exploring with business, opportunities to make practical improvements to simplify trade processes, including reducing time and cost for business through the Simplified Trade System reforms.

We recognise that we must work together with bodies like the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Australian Centre for Trade and Investment, to take trade policy beyond government, to the Australian businesses that will realise the potential of all our trade partnerships.

Indeed, this is what the survey recommends.

This is how we will create a resilient trade sector, the benefits of which will be shared across the Australian community for generations to come.

Thank you.

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