OUTCOME 1: Australia's national interests protected and advanced through contributions to international security, national economic and trade performance and global cooperation
Services to business
As much of the work undertaken with Australian business forms part of the departments efforts to protect and advance Australias economic and trade performance, detailed information on that work can be found in reporting against outputs 1.1 and 1.2. The following describes the departments broad support for Australian business during the year.
The department provided a statistical consultancy service for business and members of the public. This service responded to just over 7 700 requests for international trade and general statistics, in electronic and other forms. In collaboration with Austrades export hotline, the department continued to offer hotline support to exporters to address their concerns over a range of tariff and non-tariff issues. A new departmental service, the WTO Disputes Investigations and Enforcement Mechanism, was established to provide exporters with a formal means to petition the Government in cases where they believe others may be in breach of WTO commitments and to request the government to exercise Australias rights under the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding on their behalf.
The department improved access for Australian business to regional markets through the creation of a new APEC website for business (www.bizapec.com). The website enables business to explore opportunities, compare export markets, check tariff levels, customs and standards requirements, access relevant laws and regulations, find business visa information and make contact with relevant government agencies. Also launched was a new online trade and economic information service to business, TradeWatch (www.dfat.gov.au/tw/), initially covering 20 of Australias most important export markets. The service focuses on trade and investment market access developments and negotiations, where the department makes a unique contribution to the practical needs of business. It also enables business to make input directly to the development of Australias bilateral trade strategies.
The departments Market Access Facilitation teams targeted particular sectors of importance to Australian exporters. There was continued strong demand for the departments statistical publications and for individually commissioned market data.
Senior staff of the department made presentations at a number of significant business events, conferences and trade exhibitions, including State and Territory International Business Weeks.
The department worked closely with Australian business people in all North Asian markets, providing tactical advice, organising high-level meetings and advocating and representing business interests. For example, we assisted Australian liquefied natural gas (LNG) companies in their bids to win major new contracts in Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan.
We worked closely with Australian primary producers to win additional access in Japan for Australian fruit and seafood. Our collaboration with business in the Japanese market extended to some high technology industriesfor instance, we helped to expedite Japanese Government approval to market a new Australian bionic ear.
We worked closely with the Australian financial sector to increase access to the Chinese market for our banks and insurance companies, and with a wide range of Australian exporters in developing Australias final position in the market access negotiations with China (the bilateral agreement was signed by Mr Vaile in May 2000).
The AustraliaChina Trade and Investment Summit, the business centrepiece of President Jiang Zemins September 1999 Australian visit, provided highly valuable networking and practical business opportunities for Australian and Chinese business people. The summit, organised by the department in partnership with the Victorian Government, had sessions devoted to five key sectors: minerals and energy, financial and legal services, agribusiness, information technology and telecommunications, and transport and distribution. The business feedback from the summit was very positive.
Close collaboration with peak business associations such as the AustraliaJapan Business Cooperation Committee and the AustraliaChina Business Council ensured that our work advanced the aims of Australian companies. A regular flow of information, including assessments of the impact of international developments on bilateral and regional trade and investment patterns, proved to be valuable commercially.
The department worked closely with business in securing some additional market access in the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Taiwan for Australian agricultural products. In the case of South Korea, our bilateral work in conjunction with business on products such as horticulture, citrus and seafood was supplemented by close collaboration on WTO action on the ROKs beef distribution system. The WTOs recent findings will pressure South Korea to meet its liberalisation commitments. We supported the annual AustraliaTaiwan Business Council meeting in Taipei in November 1999.
Weakness in the Indonesian economy meant that bilateral trade remained subdued, although Indonesia still ranks eleventh among our trading partners and is a particularly important market for cotton and wheat. We worked actively to support and advocate specific Australian business interests in Indonesia, including for example, in relation to Indonesian anti-dumping actions on Australian wheat flour exports.
Together with the AustraliaIndonesia Institute, we arranged briefings for business to keep them informed of political, economic and commercial developments in Indonesia. We also helped arrange for senior Australian business representatives to meet President Abdurrahman Wahid and senior economic ministers to discuss the commercial relationship.
Further information on the activities of the AustraliaIndonesia Institute can be found in reporting against sub-output 3.1.2.
We provided a high level of assistance to Australian business to maximise opportunities in East Timor during the reconstruction phase, including through advice and assistance in gaining access to relevant contacts in Dili; participation in business seminars such as the October 1999 Reconstruction in East Timor Forum (opened by Mr Vaile); and liaison with East Timorese business associations. Australian businesses won a significant proportion of UN procurement contracts in East Timor during the period.
We worked with business to secure some further market access in Thailand for agriculture products and continued work on achieving liberalisation of Thai foreign investment laws. We also worked closely with Australian business on remaining trade barriers in Malaysia, and although bilateral progress was limited, Malaysia announced a number of global tariff reductions during the year, from which Australian businesses are benefiting.
The department supported the Singapore Australia Business Alliance Forum and helped fund the launch of a Young Business Ambassador program designed to encourage networking between young Australian and Singaporean business people.
In Vietnam, the departments business focus was on the financial and education sectors.
There was a setback in the Philippines, where a dispute over Australias quarantine process disrupted Australian exports. The department worked hard with business to achieve a satisfactory resolution, announced by Mr Vaile in June 2000.
The departments preparatory work for the January 2000 Oman ministerial meeting contributed to the establishment of a work program for the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IORARC) that will deliver benefits for Australian exporters. To consolidate the business focus adopted at the Oman meeting, the department commissioned a major survey of Australian businesses on market impediments in IORARC member countries.
With the assistance of the department and of Austrade, Australian business continued to do well in the United States. Our wine and lamb meat industries, for instance, expanded their presence in the US market. Much of the departments focus during the year, however, was on protecting the interests of Australian businesses and primary producers in the face of some growing protectionist pressure in the United States. For example, the department worked closely with the lamb meat industry and the iron ore industry to protect their interests in the US market.
We had success in resolving long-running disputes in relation to our automotive leather and prawn exports and we made clear to the United States our interests with regard to food aid and intellectual property issues. Canadas complaint against Australias quarantine restrictions on salmon was resolved satisfactorily. In all these matters, the department, through our offices in Canberra and in the United States and Canada, worked closely with the relevant Australian businesses and peak industry bodies. We also continued our close cooperation with Austrade in promoting joint AustraliaUS business activities.
Mr Vailes visit, supported by the department, to Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay in August and September 1999 promoted bilateral trade and investment opportunities. The department assisted the Trade sub-committee of the JSCFADT in its inquiry into Australias trade and investment relationship with South America (a report and recommendations are expected in September 2000).
The department promoted awareness of Latin America in the Australian business community through a public diplomacy strategy. The department and our strategic partners undertook a range of business outreach activities, including:
- the successful launch of a publication, Doing Business in Latin America;
- a national business seminar series;
- the launch of a new business-focused website; and
- support for the establishment of the Australian National Centre for Latin American Studies at the Australian National University.
We worked closely with Australian business and other Australian agencies to develop exports of automotive and aircraft components to France.
We also worked closely with the Australian beef industry to maintain access to the EU beef market, successfully addressing European health and safety concerns. Together with the Australian prawn industry, we advanced prospects of improved access to the EU market for Australian prawns.
The biennial AustraliaGermany Business Conference, held in Brisbane in October 1999, brought together 130 Australian and German business leaders to exchange views on banking and finance, minerals and energy, tax reform, communications and the media, and on the AustraliaGermany Partnership 2000 Action Plan. The department contributed to organisation of the conference.
For information on Expo 2000 in Hanover, see outcome 3.
The Australian business community welcomed a departmental paper about opportunities in Central Europe for Australian envirotech and environmental management.
The department liaised closely with Australian businesses (bankers, food exporters, oil companies, miners and airlines) with major interests in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and other South Pacific countries and had detailed exchanges on the investment climate and market access issues. A particular focus of the departments engagement with business groups active in PNG has been the development of the proposed PNGQueensland gas pipeline.
The annual Pacific heads of mission series of meetings with business (the Business Roadshow) helped develop the departments industry contacts in Brisbane and Sydney. We maintained a strong dialogue with the Fiji Australia Business Council and the Textile and Fashion Industry Association, and provided advice on debt recovery and safeguarding overseas assets. We negotiated a trade and economic relations arrangement with New Caledonia and made focused representations where necessary to develop further prospects for Australian trade and investment.
The department supported companies doing business in New Zealand through liaison with the Trans-Tasman Business Circle and the Australia New Zealand Business Council, and by further work on strengthening the Closer Economic Relationship (CER) arrangements. We provided continuing support for Austrades trade and investment promotion activities in New Zealand.
The department collaborated with Australian businesses seeking to enhance their commercial relationships in the Middle East. We bolstered links with the AustraliaArab Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the AustraliaIsrael Chamber of Commerce and Industry, including through arranging for their participation in missions led by Mr Vaile to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
We monitored and supplied advice to Australian education service providers on changes to South African regulations that could have a negative impact on their operations. We also assisted the AustraliaSouthern Africa Business Council, including through efforts to reinvigorate its sister body, the AustraliaSouth Africa Business Association. The department worked together with Austrade on a series of seminars held around Australia in July and August 1999. Titled LinkWest, they were designed to inform business of the considerable range of product and services opportunities in the southern African region.
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