Australia’s economic wellbeing and growth depend on a competitive domestic economy and access to foreign markets and investment. Trade policy, industry policy and microeconomic reform all work to provide Australian business with the competitive foundations and opportunities to thrive in an increasingly globalised marketplace.
Australia’s trade policy combines mutually reinforcing multilateral, regional and bilateral efforts to advance its commercial interests. Strategies focus on reducing barriers and developing markets for Australian exports, services and investment. In this context the World Trade Organization (WTO) is of particular significance. Australia is a strong supporter of the WTO as the chief forum for global trade liberalisation. Australia chairs the Cairns Group of WTO member countries seeking fair trade in agricultural products. Australia’s major multilateral trade objective is the successful conclusion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations, launched in 2001. The Round could potentially deliver substantial improvements to Australia’s access to global markets - particularly in agriculture, services and industrial products - and secure trading conditions. Australia actively encourages other WTO members to engage constructively in the negotiations.
Australia’s economic interests are based predominantly in the Asia-Pacific region, and Australia is a strong supporter of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. In 2003, 68% of Australia’s exports of goods and services went to member economies of APEC. The centrepiece of APEC is the annual meeting of APEC Leaders, which is evolving into one of the world’s key summits. APEC’s core mission is encompassed in its 'Bogor Goals' to achieve free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region through trade liberalisation, trade facilitation and economic and technical assistance for developing member economies. In recent years, APEC Leaders have recognised that economic prosperity is not possible without security and, at their meeting in October 2003, committed themselves to a complementary goal of protecting the security of their peoples.
Australia supports closer economic integration between ASEAN and Australia and New Zealand, and welcomed ASEAN’s announcement in 2004 that it supported development of a free trade agreement between ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand. Australia considers comprehensive bilateral and regional trade agreements support multilateral liberalisation efforts. Australia has a long-standing free trade agreement with New Zealand, and has recently negotiated agreements with Singapore, the USA and Thailand. Australia has also agreed with both China and Malaysia to undertake feasibility studies for bilateral free trade agreements.
Australia’s trade policies and strategies are described in the annual Trade Statement, and are discussed at National Trade Consultations and meetings of the Trade Policy Advisory Council.