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Aust exporters eye long-term business from APEC markets

17 September, 2007

Australian exporters anticipate increased business gains from trade with APEC member economies, according to new research from Austrade and DHL.

Source: Tim Harcourt.

According to a survey of Australian export businesses, 93 per cent expected to be selling into APEC markets in the next five years.

Austrade’s Chief Economist Tim Harcourt said APEC offers more than tariff gains to Australian exporters, making member economies more attractive markets in the longer term.

“APEC’s design as a consensus-based forum will help trade facilitation throughout the region, and that’s significant for Australian businesses.

“Although the reduction of trade barriers is important, especially in agriculture, many exporters are looking beyond formal barriers to issues ‘behind the border’ such as business regulation, non-tariff barriers, standards, business culture issues and in-market obstacles that make exporting difficult.

APEC economies are implementing wide-ranging regulatory and administrative reforms to improve market access, increase efficiency and reduce impediments to competition and innovation. For example, the Australian-initiated APEC Business Travel Card scheme cuts through the red tape and gives accredited business people pre-cleared entry to participating APEC economies, reducing the need to apply for multiple visas.

“APEC’s focus on trade facilitation could bring potential gains of $444 billion to the global economy, according to World Bank estimates,” he said.

Harcourt said that exporters were looking to the APEC leaders meeting to help realise the gains that more streamlined trade facilitation could bring to the communities of the Asia Pacific.

APEC's trade facilitation aims to open markets by reducing the cost of cross-border trade, improving access to trade information and aligning policy and business strategies to liberalise trade and assist growth in all sectors.

“According to World Bank research, at the moment it takes an average 21 days to transport goods over an APEC border compared to 14 days in the OECD. Improvements in trade facilitation through harmonisation of standards and regulation could bring significant economic gains,” he said.

Harcourt thought this was particularly important for Australia. “APEC accounts for nearly 70 per cent of Australia’s trade with the world, and 13 of our top 20 exporter destinations are other APEC member economies.

“Furthermore, there are benefits to Australian workers,” he said. “On average, exporting businesses pay 60 per cent higher wages than non-exporters and also provide better conditions, more job security and equal opportunity for women.”

Harcourt said that the potential gains from APEC would help provide momentum for more global trade liberalisation.

“APEC is a complement, not a substitute for the WTO. With so many major world economies in APEC, it can only help the greater cause of having a more open global economy to facilitate trade and investment, accelerate economic growth and help reduce world poverty.”

In addition to meetings of economic leaders and senior Ministers, APEC Leader’s Week will include the APEC 2007 Business Summit and the APEC Business Advisory Council Meeting. These meetings will give business and industry representatives the opportunity for dialogue with officials and policy makers from the region and influence commercial outcomes.

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