The policy space for those in the International Trade, Customs and related agricultural reform field has got much more crowded in the space of the last month!

If I may attempt to summarise

  • On Monday (20 October 2014) the Federal Government released its "Agricultural Competitiveness Green Paper".  To view this paper click here.  The paper is a discussion of possible options proposed by stakeholders for improving the competitiveness of the agricultural sector.  The Government has invited stakeholders to comment on the Green Paper by 12 December 2014.  The finalised policy directions for improving the profitability and competitiveness of the agriculture sector will then be detailed in a "White Paper" as a precursor to actual reform.
  • The Green Paper acknowledges that many ideas overlap with other reviews including the current Harper Competition Review and the proposed Taxation White Paper.
  • The Harper Review touches on some shipping reforms in terms of the exemptions from the CC Act contained in Part X of the Act although that Review does not directly address the current review of Coastal Shipping Regulation being undertaken by the Government.
  • The Green Paper also shares very similar space to the Government's "Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda" released on 14 October (see my summary here).
  • The focus on competitiveness may well be overdue.  The Boston Consulting Group recently released a Report on the economics of manufacturing among the top 25 exporting countries which placed Australia as the worst performer. It categorises Australia as “losing ground” and as a traditional high-cost economy that “continues to deteriorate because of a lack of productivity gains and increases in energy costs.”
  • The Green Paper also shares space with the "Pivot North" Report being the Final Report issued by the Joint Select Committee on the development of Northern Australia to be found here .
  • At the same time, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry's Inquiry into Australia's Food Origin Labelling has announced that it will conduct an inquiry into the anti –circumvention framework in relation to anti – dumping measures (see here.) The announcement is surprising given that the paint is hardly dry on the framework which only commenced in June 2013.  At the moment there is the sum total of one ongoing Investigation (into aluminium extrusions) although the comments made by the Chair of the Committee suggests a sense that the framework is not seen as working with additional complaints by the steel, aluminium and food industries.  Submissions are due by 30 November 2014, and I think we can safely assume additional reform and regulation (at a time of proposed de – regulation by Government).
  • The anti – dumping regime is also perceived to be under wider strain as new Investigations are announced and the ADC is granted significant numbers of extensions on various existing Investigations.  Hopefully the ADC is being granted adequate resources to manage its very broad agenda.

All of this is taking place at the same time as Customs and its Industry Advisory Group presses ahead with preparations for the introduction of the Trusted Trader Programme and everyone prepares for the implementation of the Korean and Japanese Free Trade Agreements while awaiting the anticipated announcement of the China Free Trade Agreement at the G20 meetings in Brisbane next month.

Those in industry could be forgiven for invoking the immortal words of Monty Python's "Mr Gumby" where he states "my brain hurts".  However it is worth noting the efforts of various industry associations in responding to all of this reform and appreciating the work of the many persons volunteering time to address these issues.