Australia has recently been ranked #23rd out of 138 countries in the World Economic Forum’s global “enabling trade” index. This was a drop from 17th place in 2012 and 14th place in 2009. This has brought many to say that the Australian government needs to work on improving trade performance. it’s important to actually look behind the headline figures for these type of global studies and show that the government does not necessarily need to solely improve trade policy to increase its global trade ranking.
There are a couple of theories on how to improve trade performance, lowering tariff complexity and improving trade transparency is a key argument. Currently, Australia ranks 43rd in terms of tariff complexity and 22nd in terms of border control administration and transparency. Similarly, on its operating environment it is 19th versus 14th in 2009.
Australian exporters face barriers like a lack of access to foreign markets, transport costs and regulatory barriers. These barriers are mainly due to ‘tyranny of distance’ but also to regulatory and procedural arrangements for outbound and inbound trade.
Australian trade policies, regulations and procedures require attention in a similar manner to the many other areas of regulatory burden that are currently under scrutiny.
These results highlight the importance of free trade and multi-lateral agreements, including those with China and Japan, Australia’s two largest trading partners, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The government has mentioned that it will put a welcoming focus on expediting these type of agreements I hopes of strengthening Australia’s trade performance.
Australia will be hosting the G20 Leaders Meeting in November, this will provide another opportunity to address trade barriers and encourage expanded global trade.
If the government to improve its ranking for the next study without making any major changes to trade tariffs, it could look at the other factors that impact the index. If we think about it, the World Economic Forum’s study measures more than just trade factors. It takes into consideration many different variables to produce the one ranking.
So speaking about other factors, here are a few changes that the government could make in a bid to improve its global trade index ranking.
The first would be to not only to have better intellectual property protections but reinforce them as well. Australia ranks very low on this factor compared to many other countries.
Improving the quality of online government services is another factor that can greatly help Australia. Increasing the number of e-government initiatives can only benefit the country.
It is clear that there are changes needed to be made to Australia’s trade policies like the transparency issues and the tariffs. What I am conveying is that there are indeed other variables the country could look to. While these factors may not work as well as say measuring trade alone, there are other factors the country can look to improving. If Australia does not want to keep falling on the ranks, they should figure out ways to improve these things, even if they are not drastic changes being made.