Single trade window of resources to help SMEs tap into export opportunities
A one-stop shop for small and medium export-oriented businesses is expected to help SMEs tap into some of Australia’s largest trading markets.
The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, welcomed the joint standing committee report on access to free trade agreements (FTAs) by small and medium enterprises and urged bi-partisan support for key recommendations.
"The proposed centralised ‘single trade window’ of resources would help SMEs to tap into some of our largest trading markets," Ms Carnell said.
The different requirements, paperwork and processes of each individual FTA can be quite daunting to an SME owner, particularly smaller businesses, the Ombudsman explained.
"We support the continued use of specific SME chapters in FTAs, including an e-commerce focus, and encourage additional SME user-friendly guidance and support for stepping into the business of exporting," Ms Carnell said.
"Despite our existing trade partnerships and the new partnerships with 10 countries through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, SMEs have not experienced the same growth in exports as has big business."
The FTAs report acknowledges that Australia has so much to offer in the exporting of goods and services by SMEs.
"Recommendations around reducing the complexity of overlapping FTAs and trialling a grant program in regional areas will open up doors for trade and investment, and new growth opportunities.
"By realising the key recommendation in this report, SMEs would be in a better position to weigh up their options and potentially chart a way forward for their business overseas," Ms Carnell noted.
The Ombudsman also welcomed the review of Export Market Development Grants and the role of Efic, noting that access to adequate finance for exporting SMEs remains a significant issue.
"The signing of the landmark FTA with Indonesia will provide many more opportunities for Australian SMEs," Ms Carnell concluded.
IPA advocacy work
In its first Small Business White Paper, the Institute of Public Accountants noted the need to increase the utilisation of FTAs, stating that otherwise "there would be no point in having them".
"It is, therefore, pleasing to see that the government has responded with a new FTA portal and other online resources to enable small businesses and others to more readily access the benefits of our trade agreements," the IPA said in its latest Small Business White Paper.