Australia must reinforce and grow its competitive position in ASEAN

04.10.2016 Lisa McAuley
Australia must reinforce and grow its competitive position in ASEAN

Trade and investment are key drivers of innovation and long-term prosperity for Australia. At the Export Council of Australia (ECA), we believe that Australian jobs are best created and protected over the long term through an open and competitive economic system.

In the wake of Brexit as well as the current election campaign in the United States, there are many concerns about the anti-trade rhetoric spreading to Australia.

And in some ways we should be concerned, because unfortunately it is very easy for the protectionist rhetoric, driven by just a few, to distort the picture of how important the role of trade is to the Australian economy. It also very easily gives rise to the very WRONG impression to the general public on the benefits of trade.

As the ECA prepares to launch our annual Trade Policy document in November 2016, we have given much thought to how we as the peak industry body representing international trade can have a strong voice on this issue.

One thing we do know is that it will be our members, the exporters, who will play the most important role in supporting Australian trade. It will be the ECA’s job to work with our members and partners to ensure that as a group, we have a unified voice.

We cannot forget that Australia, through the recent signing of the North Asian FTA’s and our FTA network in general, has access which is the envy of many other countries around the world. This presents a real opportunity for us.

Australia is home to around 50,000 exporters who collectively send around $320 billion worth of goods and services to the rest of the world.

Growing this number, and increasing our international trade and investment, is ABSOLUTELY crucial to unlocking our future economic potential and our country’s role in Asia.

Australian firms enjoy more overseas opportunities than ever before. This is in the context of international demand for what this country produces, and a growing array of liberalising trade agreements – particularly across ASEAN.

The challenge for Australia is to capitalise on these opportunities, and to reinforce our competitive position in this growing vibrant region.

To meet this challenge, we need to encourage more export-capable companies to engage with the opportunity, as well as grow our skills base to succeed internationally.

This cannot be done alone, there has to be an ecosystem that works together to support exporters.

I am very pleased the ECA, together with our partner HSBC Australia have launched the ASEAN Connected Report. Reports like these highlight the wealth of opportunity available to our exporters, and encourage them to explore it.


The ECA and HSBC Australia have also developed the ASEAN Connected Toolkit, which we plan to rollout over the coming months. These are a series of practical resources for Australian companies interested in accessing opportunities available under our various free trade agreements across the ASEAN region.

I would like to thank our partners HSBC Australia for their support in this initiative, as well as our Head Research Manager, Niels Strazdins.

We hope these resources will encourage more Australian companies to seriously consider and actively engage in the vast opportunity available to us in the ASEAN region.


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