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Wednesday, 18 August 1993
Page: 198

Senator BEAHAN —My question, which is directed to the Minister for Trade, refers to the government's commitment to boosting Australia's international competitiveness and making Australia one of the leading export economies of the world. Can the minister inform the Senate how the budget will assist Australia's emerging exporters?

Senator COOK —As Senator Evans has just said, this is a balanced and responsible budget. One of the most vital features of it is the emphasis it gives to encouraging Australian exporters, in particular the emerging exporters that have been identified in the McKinsey review.

  Australia exports now about one-fifth of all it produces. Our objective is to lift that percentage of GDP even higher and put this country in the front rank of major exporting economies in the world. A pleasing feature of our current export performance is the massive growth in manufacturing exports, particularly in the exports of elaborately transformed manufactures and in the growth of services exports out of this country. The market area for most of that growth has been East Asia.

  We now have seven of our top 10 markets in East Asia. In the early 1970s we had only two of them there; seven of the 10 are there now. In the last five years, particularly in elaborately transformed manufactured goods, we have increased our exports to the North East Asian region by 23 per cent and to South East Asia by 27 per cent. So we have seen a magnificent growth in the export of manufactured goods which as a category now ranks equal to that of agricultural exports out of this country.

  Against that background, the McKinsey-AMC study found that the emergent exporters, the small to medium companies in this country that are doing well, have managed to double their export earnings since 1986-87. They now earn—there are some 700 of them—at least in terms of this study, $8 billion in export earnings. That was an important finding, added to the fact that in the next five years they expect to double that $8 billion.

  The other significant finding is that there are 6,000 other companies in the manufacturing sector in Australia that also could export their product and earn significant export dollars for this country. How to energise them and encourage them to participate in exporting is a major question for the government and a major finding of the McKinsey report. We have now put in place a series of incentives to help and assist them to meet the particular strategic requirements of these companies and get into the export area—most importantly into East Asia where the economic growth for that region, if you leave out Japan, for this calendar year is about 8 per cent and where there is real demand for the types of goods that we export.

  The budget in dealing with this issue, and on behalf of my department and the Department of Industry, Technology and Regional Development, outlined a series of initiatives valued at $94 million over the next three years. They are: to increase the funding for the international trade enhancement scheme and to make it available to smaller companies; to improve the availability of the export market development grants scheme and to reduce the burden on smaller companies that might be recipients of that scheme; to engage in a `Market Australia' campaign, which is a campaign to sell the image of this country abroad so that we are seen as a source of sophisticated manufactured goods and high-quality services; to establish a task force on market penetration to work out how better we can harmonise our effort in this country to succeed in foreign markets; to establish a national exporter education centre to provide the necessary education backup for our entrepreneurs to succeed in markets in which the prevailing cultural mores are not those of an Anglo-Saxon background; and to increase funding to the Development Import Finance Facility.

  Opposition senators—His time is up.

Senator COOK —I will conclude at that point. This is a major feature of the budget and one I am sure there is bipartisan support for.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The chair will call time.