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2003 Australian export awards: speech, Marriot Hotel, Brisbane.



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The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP MINISTER FOR TRADE, AUSTRALIA

Speech

Marriot Hotel, Brisbane, 7 May 2003

2003 Australian Export Awards

(Check Against Delivery)

Thank you Peter (O’Byrne).

Premier Peter Beattie.

Our hosts from the Export Finance Insurance Corporation

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to be in Brisbane today to launch the 40th Australian export awards.

I am also delighted to announce a new award category for achievements in tourism exports in recognition of the outstanding contribution that the tourism sector makes to our economy.

The Australian Export Awards are recognised as one of the longest running and most prestigious business awards in Australia.

For 40 years the Awards have recognised excellence in exporting and promoted the sector’s highest achievers as role models for the business community in Australia.

One need only look at some of the early winners. Companies such as Repco, Holden, Ansell, Seppelt Wines and Alcoa, all of whom remain highly successful exporters today.

Australian exports have come a long way since the first awards in 1963. Exports now generate around one fifth of our GDP and account for 1 in 5 jobs - 1 in 4 in regional areas.

Our government recognizes the crucial contribution of exports to our standard of living through our efforts to promote exports in Australia and across the world.

We have achieved a great deal since 1996 - but we continue to work to increase our export levels.

Ladies & gentlemen

In 2001, I announced a challenging initiative, in partnership with state governments, industry groups and regional development organizations, to double the number of exporters by 2006.

To achieve this growth the government has instituted and funded a number of practical initiatives to help companies establish international markets for their products and services.

We have provided $21.5 million in funding over four years for the TradeStart network to assist small and medium businesses into export in collaboration with our allies and partners.

TradeStart, through an established network of 49 offices, provides exporters with a one-stop shop for export advice and a local access point to Austrade’s networks in overseas markets.

TradeStart is showing companies that they don’t have to be big or located in a capital city to export.

If they have a quality product or service that is differentiated and competitively priced, like many of the export award winners featured here today, there is likely to be an international market for it.

Here in Queensland, TradeStart offices can now be found in both metropolitan Brisbane and regionally in centres such as Cairns, Emerald, Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Toowoomba.

The Export Market Development Grant Scheme continues to be one of the government’s most successful programs.

Funding of $150 million last year supported more than 3000 small and medium-sized Australian businesses into export. This generated an estimated $5 billion in export revenue and employed 116,000 Australians.

There is already evidence that our strategy on doubling is working.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently reported a lift in exporter numbers from the base of 25,000 in the 2001 financial year to 31,500 last financial year.

Our export programs are revitalising regional areas across Australia as increasing numbers of small and medium enterprises focus on international business.

In short, we are creating the environment and impetus to substantially lift exporter numbers in Australia.

Trade policy

Ladies and gentlemen

Our program of doubling the number of exporters is an important part of the most ambitious trade agenda in Australia’s history.

At the heart of that agenda is our strategy of competitive liberalisation-a strategy maximising our trade opportunities with individual countries, in our wider region and globally.

It is a strategy that demonstrates that what we do, bilaterally and regionally, can complement and stimulate the multilateral trading system, and the current Doha Round of global trade negotiations.

And it is a strategy that ensures, in these uncertain times, that our exporters achieve greater access to overseas markets as quickly, as broadly and as deeply as possible.

The FTA with the United States

As you know, recently we began negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

It is - without question - the most significant bilateral trade negotiation in Australia’s history, and a singular opportunity for Australia.

Australia’s beef and dairy farmers and sugar producers know how hard it is to get their product into the US market -Australian growers face quotas restricting our access to the US market for all three products.

We believe these negotiations are a great opportunity for substantially improved access for our farmers as well as our other exporters.

It is, as The Australian noted in its editorial yesterday, a case of nothing ventured, nothing gained.

At the same time, the government has made it clear to the Americans that we will not give up our ability to provide good public policy for all Australians.

This includes in areas such as the PBS, the environment and local content rules for television.

Any Australian political party not prepared to support these negotiations would be turning its back on this once in a century opportunity to assist Australian farmers and other exporters.

Even Bob Carr has been moved to contradict directly his federal counterparts, saying this week that, and I quote:

“It is in Australia’s interests to link ourselves with the world’s most dynamic and creative economy. It’s about more than trade, it’s about investment, and it doesn’t rule out Australia’s growing economic relationship with East Asia”.

I think that is a pretty neat summary of the coalition government’s position.

Recent achievements

As most of you would be aware, we completed negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement with Singapore late last year, and we are now negotiating a FTA with Thailand.

We have advanced our trade and economic relationships with China and Japan, and I hope to discuss progress on more formal arrangements with both countries in forthcoming talks with my Chinese and Japanese counterparts.

In the Middle East, now a major regional market for Australia, talks are under way on a possible trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates.

I have just returned from the US where I led a business delegation to talk on Australia’s involvement with the rebuilding of Iraq in addition to our proposed Free Trade Agreement.

We have established an Iraq procurement unit in Austrade to assist Australian companies that are interested in helping meet Iraq’s economic development and future needs.

I would encourage experienced companies to register their interest in Iraq reconstruction on the Austrade website.

The Doha Round

Our efforts to open markets bilaterally complement what we are doing in the new Round of global trade negotiations now underway at the WTO.

The Doha Round remains the Government’s number one trade policy objective - because multilateral trade negotiations are Australia’s best hope for better access to overseas markets, across the board, for Australian goods and services.

The government is fully committed to continuing its active pursuit of the massive potential benefits that would result from a successful conclusion to the Doha Round.

We have ensured, as Chair of the Cairns Group, that it has become -along side the United States and European Union - the third force in the Doha Round.

Right now, the Round has been effectively stalled due to the inability -and unwillingness -of the European Union and Japan to come to the party on agriculture.

I remain optimistic, however, about the capacity of the multilateral trading system to agree on ambitious and far-reaching reforms that deliver consistent and fair rules, and a level playing field, for international trade.

Our trade performance

Ladies and gentlemen

Australia’s economy remains incredibly strong -unemployment at 6.1 per cent, inflation at 3 per cent, home loan interest rates at 6.5 per cent, and government debt reduced by more than $60 billion, to $34 billion.

Our exports are reaching more markets, and are expanding the range and sophistication of the goods and services that we supply to the world.

Last year, despite weakened demand in key markets and the effects of the drought, our export volumes were down only 0.1 percent.

Moreover, the value of our exports, while down 2.3 per cent, was still near record levels at $151 billion.

Our capital imports have been strong -evidence of business investing in the future and making us more productive and competitive.

Our interest payments are a result of increased private borrowings, not public borrowings.

And Australia, for the first time in 17 years, has a triple A credit rating with both Standard & Poors, and with Moody’s, that allows our private sector to borrow -and invest -more cheaply.

Export successes

The tough international conditions for our exporters -now buffeted again by the impacts of the SARS epidemic in some of our key markets -makes me especially proud of our continued export successes.

The booming automotive industry exported more than $4.8 billion worth of products -30 per cent of local production, last year.

Australian wine exports continued their surge in international popularity in 2002, growing a further 21 per cent in value, to a total of $2.3 billion.

Tourism exports have enjoyed growth of 19 per cent, from $13.7 billion to $16.3 billion, over the past five years despite the uncertainties of the past 18 months. Tourism is now Australia’s largest export.

My announcement today therefore of a separate tourism category in the Australian Export Awards should come as no surprise.

Of course, tourism is not alone in the list of new and often unsung successes amongst Australian companies that export their products.

• Note Printing Australia has won additional contracts for its unique polymer bank notes -and now exports its products to the central banks of 13 countries. • Gippsland Aeronautics, a small company based in regional Victoria, has now successfully sold aircraft to Southern Africa, Indonesia and Belize.

• And here in Queensland, companies such as Lenan Corporation, which started operations out of a garage, now exports its hair care products all around the world and employs 18 people.

These companies, and the entrepreneurs running them, are the unsung heroes of Australia’s continued economic success.

And it is representatives of companies like these that are being recognised for their achievements and contributions to Australia in today’s award launch.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen

In closing, I would like to congratulate our previous award winners here today and thank the sponsors for their continued support of the Awards.

The past 40 years of Australian export awards has been a barometer of the changes in our economy -and as a result in our society -that have brought us renewed prosperity in recent years.

Our challenge as a nation -over the next 40 years and beyond - is to maintain our international competitiveness, through innovation and ingenuity, whilst ensuring better and more effective access to overseas markets.

That is the crux of the coalition government’s approach to trade promotion and trade policy.

I challenge all companies thinking of exporting their products to emulate previous winners of the Australian Export Awards.

In doing so, you will be helping to ensure that our economic prosperity and security - envied the world over -is maintained and enhanced.

Thank you.