Australia’s economic and commercial diplomacy

The Foreign Policy White Paper places economic and commercial diplomacy at the forefront of Australia’s international engagement.

The new Economic and Commercial Diplomacy Agenda uses the full suite of the Australian Government’s diplomatic resources and our domestic networks to advocate for an open global economy, support businesses seeking commercial opportunities, advance our political and economic interests, and strengthen our international competitiveness.

Drawing on the expertise and priorities of Australian business, we will advance our commercial interests in foreign markets, reinforcing high-level advocacy by Australian political and business leaders.

Benefits of trade for Australians 2017

50,000 Australian goods exporters; Contributing $387 billion in export income in 2017; 1 in 5 Australian jobs rely on trade; 1 in 7 jobs rely on exports; Exporting businesses employ more people and pay higher wages

DFAT, in partnership with Austrade, leads the implementation of the Economic and Commercial Diplomacy Agenda. The Agenda is focused on five key pillars of activity:

  • promoting investment
  • addressing non-tariff barriers
  • supporting and facilitating business
  • advocating for the global rules-based trade system, and
  • increasing science, technology and innovation links.

DFAT has over 100 overseas posts across the world and offices in Australian state and territory capital (STOs). DFAT's role includes:

  • working with portfolio partners and other key Australian Government agencies to promote and protect Australian trade and investment interests
  • leading whole-of-government efforts in international trade and investment negotiations, including FTA negotiations
  • through our DFAT State office Directors and in collaboration with Austrade, liaising with state, territory and local governments on international aspects of their work, supporting Australian business, and trade and investment objectives, through engagement with companies and business councils and targeted events
  • engaging business to share information on developments in overseas markets that present commercial opportunities and risks, and
  • managing the majority of Australia's $3.7 billion aid program focused on economic development across our region.

Our overseas officials build productive relationships and valuable networks in host countries with ministers, government officials, business people, media representatives, think tanks, universities and community groups. These networks enable us to advise Australian governments and businesses on key political, economic, commercial, regulatory and strategic developments, including through our Market Insights.

Working together

DFAT works closely with portfolio partners and other key Australian Government agencies with economic and trade responsibilities, including:

Australia’s trade and investment with the world, 2017

Infographic, text version linked below
Australia’s trade and investment with the world, 2017 infographic. Larger version [PNG] | Text version

Partnering with Australian business

Over 50,000 Australian businesses export goods or services. Australia's diplomacy is most effective when government and business work together to support our international economic and commercial interests.

In 2018, Australia marked 27 years of continuous economic growth — an achievement underpinned by our embrace of international trade, healthy stocks of foreign investment, dynamic private sector, highly skilled people, and a consistent program of economic reform.

Australia is a top 20 country. Our prosperity is built on our connection to the global economy:

  • we have attracted $3.3 trillion of foreign investment stock, helping to stimulate economic growth, create and sustain local jobs and commercialise our world-leading technologies
  • Australia is the world’s wealthiest nation terms of wealth per adult (2018) (Global Wealth Report, Credit Suisse), and
  • Australia is estimated to have the world’s 13th highest GDP and 11th highest GDP per capita (in US dollar terms) (2017)(International Monetary Fund).
Solar dish National Solar Energy Centre CSIRO
Image courtesy of Austrade

Sustaining our shared wealth into the future requires creative and agile diplomacy in support of our global economic and commercial interests. DFAT’s leadership in Australia’s international engagement directly supports the prosperity of Australians by liberalising trade, boosting economic growth, encouraging investment and assisting business. We do this through managing Australia’s overall international engagement through bilateral, regional and multilateral relationships, including trade and investment negotiations and aid programs.

The Foreign Policy White Paper committed to enhancing global opportunities for Australian businesses: opportunities that will create more jobs, harness new technologies, and promote economic growth.

The 2018 Budget funded a $15 million business engagement package with a suite of measures to support Australia’s commercial interests. These measures included a strategy to address non-tariff barriers to trade that materially impact Australian exporters, and initiatives to embed the new Economic and Commercial Diplomacy Agenda across government; increase the competitiveness of our service exports; promote the benefits of trade and investment; and a business dialogue on strategic foreign policy and security.

Students in front of a projector during Mining Safety Training at Queensland University
Image courtesy of Austrade
Last Updated: 27 November 2018