Trading our way to prosperity

What a difference a century makes.

In 1916, Queensland placed an embargo on interstate trade in livestock and, with the fate of 1000 cattle destined for South Australia under a cloud, SA’s Minister for Industry Reginald Blundell told the House of Assembly the situation had to be resolved.

Mr Blundell was reported as saying that he hoped “in conjunction with the Governments of some of the other States, to seek to decide once and for all whether it was within the power of one State by passing certain legislation to prevent the passage of commodities to other States”.

In February 2016, the Australian Government signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which wraps 16,000 pages of rules around US$28 trillion of goods and services and opens up trade between 12 countries in the Asia Pacific that account for 40 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product.

Australian exports to TPP markets – New Zealand, United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam – totalled $109 billion last year.

While emphasising the benefits of lower tariffs under the agreement, Trade Minister Andrew Robb said other aspects of the TPP were less well known.

“The embrace of paperless trading, streamlined customs procedures and trading rules, assistance for SMEs, more seamless data flows and greater flexibility with data storage, are all features of the TPP,” Mr Robb said.

The new trading regime being established with four free trade agreements (FTAs) in our region and the TPP is creating new opportunities for South Australia’s exporters.

In 2016, we celebrated the start of the Year of the Fire Monkey which is said to be one of the most active on the Chinese zodiac calendar and Business SA has experienced a busy time providing the key export documentation services required under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

As we get excited about the prospects of China and the potential of the other FTAs, we should not overlook our historical trading relationships with Europe and the United States.

Indeed, the latest trade figures from the Department of Premier and Cabinet underscore this point with growth in traditional markets and declines in Asia.

In the 12 months to December 2015, South Australian exports of goods to the United States increased by 26 per cent (to $1.7 billion) but declined by nearly 24 per cent to China ($2.2 billion) as commodity prices dived. Sales to the European Union were up nearly 14 per cent ($1.1 billion) but down 1.3 per cent to ASEAN countries ($1.9 billion).

There are opportunities and challenges on the trade front but the one thing of which we can be sure is that exports hold the key to the State’s growth and future prosperity.

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