Launch of Action Plan for Australia's Export Services

November 30, 2019

SSSI recently was invited to join a high-level business roundtable in Canberra, hosted by the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, to mark the one year milestone of the partnership between the government and service sectors. The goal was to identify, prioritise and recommend practical actions to enhance Australia’s service sector competitiveness.

The recommendations made by the service sectors to feed into the Action Plan have already been through the first tranche (industry sector) and is currently in the midst of the second tranche of working groups (creative and health service sectors), once it makes its way through the third tranche (which is expected to include environmental services, defense export services, METS and possibly the space industry) a second iteration on both reports will be released. These sectors have enormous potential for international growth.

The roundtable was an outcome of the unique collaboration between the government and the service sector that took place a year ago, which has finally led to the launch of the first iteration of the industry driven action plan.

The Minister opened his speech by acknowledging Australia as not only the exporter of exceptional goods but also being a producer of world-class services. And this was very evident when he talked about services exports reaching record levels, valued at $97 billion in 2018-19 and growing at 10%. Though the majority of these exports is currently facilitated by the education and tourism sectors, the minister discussed the sectors that have the potential to boost it even further, along with the opportunities to develop new service industry sectors in e-commerce and the digital economy.

Referring to the Services Exports Action Plan, the Minister threw light on the seventeen recommendations made by the industry service sector. These recommendations were further classified into three pillars for a better understanding.

Under the first pillar, the Minister elaborated upon how domestic policies need to be pragmatic, responsive and flexible to ensure Australian companies can maximise emerging export opportunities. This is extremely vital for SSSI and other service sectors as it leads to creation of new jobs. The Minister further discussed that the government is already working upon improving the design, administration and effectiveness of regulations that have cut compliance costs for individuals, businesses and community group by almost $6 billion through the introductions of initiatives like MY Tax and the National Business Simplification Initiative since 2013.

Furthermore, he highlighted the Deregulation Taskforce launched by the government in June, which aims at improving the design, administration and effectiveness of government regulations, while bringing to our attention the eagerness with which the government is working with professional services peak bodies in exploring how a more seamless environment can be created for service firms.

And finally focussing on the importance of quality data to inform good policy making as a major challenge when it comes to services exports, the Minister emphasised that services exports account for around one-fifth of our overall exports that figure doubles when we include embedded services. Thus mentioning about the Morrison government funding the ABS for collecting new data on exporting services firms, whose outcome in May 2020 will clearly depict the overseas investment activity of our services firms.

The Minister also discussed the recommendations under the second pillar of the Action Plan: overcoming barriers in overseas markets, an aspect of high prominence to SSSI as we strive daily for providing the best possible surveying services to other countries. The government over the last six years have made efforts to make a clear pathway for Australian businesses in overseas market by launching the Free trade Agreement (FTA) portal to help exporters understand and take advantage of FTAs, and has committed that around 90% of Australia’s two-way trade is covered by FTAs by 2022.

Mentioning the non-tariff barriers, he clarified that the mission of removing tariff barriers is still not accomplished and therefore the government has launched an NTB Action Plan to help our goods and services enter the foreign markets with greater ease and in a cost effective way.  Minister Birmingham also elaborated on how the government is currently working to address 300 NTBs applied to Australian goods and services across 77 international markets. Seventeen new Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) have been formed since 2016 to give our professionals more options for overseas work.

The aim of growing Australia’s digital trade by 2030 was another major highlight of his speech. In December 2018, the Government released the national digital economy strategy- Australia’s Tech Future- setting out a vision for a strong, safe and inclusive digital economy. He clearly expressed that the government is actively advocating for cross-border data mobility and security to help Australian businesses make the most of the digital economy.

The third pillar of the Action Plan was then discussed: supporting service firms as they internationalise, where he talked about three kinds of exporters:

  1. The reactive, that responds to specific demand in a certain market
  2. The proactive and deliberate who look internationally as a part of broader growth strategy (SSSI)
  3. The born global for whom exporting is the fundamental aspect of businesses’ mission.

The government is working upon providing exporters with more clarity on the range of government services available to support their growth and competition, here and overseas, besides working upon the global talent independent platform to attract migrants with entrepreneurial ideas and cutting edge skills. Also the launch of the Free Trade Agreement portal in 2016 and the government’s constant effort in improving it since then in order to assist businesses- including services firms- to make export decisions, was highly emphasised by the Minister.

Therefore, bringing the roundtable to conclusion the Minister cleared the aim of developing a nation brand for Australia – which will be easily understood, consistently recognisable, quintessentially Australian and adaptable for different industries in order to leverage the brand to promote their products and service offerings. The consultation process will also continue. Currently, recommendations related to health and creative subsectors are underway after which in the next tranche SSSI can expect to be included. Thus, committing to take every opportunity to grow all the service sectors “internationally.”

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