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04 March 2019

Ombudsman urges bi-partisan support for SME export opportunities

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 (SMEs) 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.

“There are a number of FTAs and each has different requirements, paperwork and processes, which can be quite daunting to an SME owner, particularly smaller businesses.

“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.

“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.

“This 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.

“The review of Export Market Development Grants and the role of Efic is also welcomed as access to adequate finance for exporting SMEs remains a significant issue.

“The signing of the landmark FTA with Indonesia today will provide many more opportunities for Australian SMEs.”