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More to free trade than FTAs

Release Date: 2/08/2018
Helping Hunter businesses crack international markets was a key focus of a parliamentary roundtable on free trade yesterday. The Hunter Business Chamber’s CEO, Bob Hawes appeared before the roundtable to highlight constraints and opportunities to encourage and support more local businesses to expand into and access overseas markets.
“Trade is in the DNA of this region. While expanding into or importing from an international market can provide a big pay-off, the complexity and time it takes to navigate regulations like rules of origin mean that many businesses often leave international trade in the too hard basket,” Bob said.
Over recent years Australia’s Free Trade Agreements have helped remove tariffs, making it more cost effective for Australian businesses to trade overseas. However, there are a range of other non-tariff barriers which impact on business looking to trade.
“To break down the barriers to trade, small business operators need information that’s up to date, easy to understand, and access to trade support via government led initiatives or industry organisations such as the Chamber helping them though the process,” Bob said.

Some of the non-tariff barriers Australian business face include:
*Identifying and developing relationships with distributors and customers
*Navigating local languages, cultures, customs and business practices
*Concerns around the protection of intellectual property
*Challenges complying with local laws and regulation (in particular labour and tax laws)
The NSW Business Chamber’s Export Growth China initiative is a great example of how businesses can be appropriately supported in expanding their customer base globally. Export Growth China assists businesses in both finding and developing opportunities in China.
“Through the Shanghai showroom and dedicated China team, businesses are able to market their product or service in China and be connected to wholesalers and distributors. So far the program has assisted more than 150 businesses and secured export sales of more than $11 million,” Bob said.
A range of presenters at the roundtable stressed the ambition and opportunity within the region to expand and diversify trade through the global gateways of the port and airport.
“Both the airport and port have contemporary and relevant vision and masterplan documents and it was really pleasing to note the interest of the members of the enquiry panel into the capacity and capability of the region in this respect.
“Business recognises international trade can be complex by virtue of it being influenced by a wide range of factors, and the opportunity for government to work with small and medium sized business to build a more competitive operating environment for trade such as lowering taxes and charges, and improving trade related infrastructure is welcomed.
“FTAs are a great first step to help make trade happen but further support for business is needed to ensure they take up these global opportunities,” Bob said.

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