Ombudsman Kate Carnell has welcomed a report on small and medium enterprises and their access to free trade agreements.
The recent Joint Standing Committee report looked at how SMEs could participate in FTAs. Ms Carnell threw her weight behind its key recommendations and urged “bi-partisan support” for the sake of Australian business.
“The proposed centralised ‘single trade window’ of resources would help SMEs to tap into some of our largest trading markets,” she said.
“There are a number of FTAs. 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 ecommerce focus. We also encourage additional SME user-friendly guidance and support for stepping into the business of exporting.
SMEs missing out
Ms Carnell expressed her concern that SMEs were missing out on the export opportunities that FTAs gave larger businesses.
“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,” she said.
“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. They could 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.”