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The IPA says it will increasingly shift its focus to helping SMEs enter the trade and export market.
Vicki Stylianou, IPA executive general manager, advocacy and technical, says the IPA wants to develop a strategy “to help members who have clients who are exporting or should be exporting”.
This is following government concerns that not enough small businesses were utilising trade agreements.
“The government’s done a lot of outreach work, a lot of it is around small business and SMEs utilising trade agreements because as a country we need to get more small businesses and SMEs involved in exporting to help our economy,” Ms Stylianou said.
“It’s going to be a case of targeting particular companies in particular sectors. There will be some that will be, what we call, ‘trade ready’.”
Ms Stylianou said many SMEs did not utilise trade agreements due to their complex nature and a lack of understanding to the point that “a lot [of SMEs] don’t even know they exist”.
“SMEs wouldn’t know how to utilise [trade agreements], they wouldn’t know which provisions, which countries, which sectors, which industries would benefit them, they wouldn’t know which tariffs to apply,” she said.
“Some people think a trade agreement is that you can go and trade on anything, but it is essentially around tariffs, so there is a lot of lack of understanding about what they are and what the provisions are that will benefit you.”
Ms Stylianou said that while practices had clients who could benefit from exporting, most practices needed a strategy to help them carry out the process and decide what experts were needed.
While there was still “a lot more work that needs to be done on it,” she said the IPA was focused on bringing resources together to help SMEs enter the trade and export market.
“When you’re small, you’re just trying to keep the doors open, you’re just trying to keep the cash flowing. To try and trade overseas just introduces a lot of complexities that they don’t have the resources to deal with.
“If you have someone that brings it all together for you, and can make sense of foreign markets and foreign regulation, then that will be useful.”