New trade taskforce must act fast on competitiveness

A new trade taskforce set up to cut copious amounts of red tape and regulation must move quickly or Australia’s global competitiveness will continue to rapidly decline.

The new Simplified Trade System Implementation Taskforce, to be led by Mr Randall Brugeaud, “is a result of more than eight years of discussions around how to modernise Australia’s antiquated trade system,” ACCI’s international director Bryan Clark said.

“It’s well overdue. Since 2013, we have been working to modernise trade systems and we’re still waiting for substantial benefits to our trading environment. Credit must go to Minister Dan Tehan and the Federal Government’s deregulation taskforce on this outcome.

“As our 2021 National Trade Survey shows, international competitiveness has remained the number one issue for exporters for years. We are 106th in the World Bank rankings for ease of border crossing and are in dire need of an improved competitiveness overhaul.

“Furthermore, the impact of COVID-19 on ease of trade cannot be under estimated – it’s a huge challenge to systems and access. Australia needs to be on the front foot with key trade partners like the UK and USA as we come out of COVID restrictions.

“Our trade costs are mounting, our border administration systems are cumbersome, and our technology and approaches are outdated. We drastically need to modernise our system to remain competitive and improve our place in the world.

“We are seeing increase cyber-attacks on both business and Government. Our trading systems and the system for compliance must be able to withstand any incursions from bad actors – our integrated cargo system cannot be the weakest link for ransom or trade disruption.”

ACCI, with partners PwC and the Port of Brisbane undertook a pilot programme to demonstrate how an improve trade systems, supported by blockchain technology and covering the complete logistics and regulator landscape for trade. The programme could help reduce costs across our economy by at least $1 Billion annually.

“With that sort of dividend, it makes eminent sense to get on and ensure our systems are world leading. We need to look at new approaches that break down the traditional information asymmetry and consider how we embrace new models in an Uber-like fashion for freight,” Mr Clark said.

“There is a raft of additional measures we hope the taskforce considers, including the abolition of tariffs, and revamping the Australian Trusted Trader Scheme to assist Australia’s 400,000 internationally-trading companies.

“Ultimately, it’s vital this taskforce move with speed and have access to multiple government departments, from DFAT to the departments of Industry, Home Affairs, Treasury and Finance. We need a whole-of-Government approach to fix our antiquated trade system.

“With our extensive resources and experience on trade systems, we look forward to working with the Government on this task to urgently address our outdated models and diminishing global competitiveness.”

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