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Free trade focus

By Julie Bishop - posted Thursday, 28 March 2013

Australia's prosperity has been built on our open, export oriented economic model, heavily reliant upon our ability to trade with the rest of the world.

With a relatively small population on a large resource-rich continent, we are dependent on overseas demand for our exports to maintain our high standard of living.

Over the decades, Australia has exported huge amounts of commodities including wheat, wool, gold, iron ore, coal, nickel and gas, amongst many other products.


In recent years there has been a growing emphasis on the export of services, including educational, legal, accounting and other professional services.

Australia also has a vibrant and innovative manufacturing sector that seeks out niche markets around the world.

Exporters in Australia have been struggling to maintain competitiveness in recent times due to the high cost of doing business here, exacerbated by an economy-wide carbon tax that none of our overseas competitors pay, and by the high Australian dollar.

It is hard to imagine any scenario where a future Australian government would reverse the decision to float the Australian dollar and so its value is largely beyond the influence of government.

However, there are other things that government can do to support exporters and in turn generate and increase economic security.

The Coalition has pledged to repeal the carbon tax and to actively pursue preferential trade agreements to remove or reduce barriers to other markets for our exporters.


This will be a continuation of the trade policies pursued by the Howard government which sought out opportunities for regional and bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) to open new markets and enhance established markets.

The record of trade negotiations under Labor since 2007 has been disappointing, particularly since 2010.

Simon Crean was appointed by Kevin Rudd as Trade Minister in December 2007 and immediately signaled his intention to focus on the big multilateral trade negotiations known as the Doha Round.

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About the Author

Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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