Tools to tame Brexit uncertainty
When the shape of Brexit itself is impossible to define, Australian business owners and managers could be excused for throwing up their hands in frustration. Uncertainty rules, but within that knowledge vacuum there are several places managers can look for guidance on what the future holds.
It is increasingly important for Australian businesses to keep their fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in Europe. As the second largest source of foreign investment in Australia, valued at over $480 billion, the UK is always going to be a major trading partner.
In 2017-18 Australia made $11.8 billion of exports to the UK and imported $16 billion of produce in return.
The EU has likewise been racing up the charts of trading value with Australia. The bloc is now Australia’s second largest trading partner, with two-way trade valued at $101 billion in 2017. The EU is also our second largest services market and third largest export destination. In 2017, the EU was Australia’s largest source of foreign investment.
Unsurprisingly, negotiations for a free-trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and the EU are well underway, having launched in mid-2018.
Future trade options
Progress of FTAs and Joint Trade Working Groups with the EU and the UK can be followed on the website of the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). At the time of writing, a comprehensive Australia-UK FTA was being scoped out by a Joint Trade Working Group that has so far held four formal meetings.
“Both governments have committed to ensure an expeditious transition to FTA negotiations when the UK has left the European Union,” DFAT said. “EU rules provide that the UK may not commence FTA negotiations with third-country parties until after Brexit...”
Of course, Australia now has FTAs in force with several major trading partners, including China, Japan, Korea, USA, Singapore, ASEAN and more. Negotiations have also recently concluded with Hong Kong and Indonesia.
The reduction or elimination of barriers have made international trade with these territories far more favourable and simple. But the UK and Europe, as with New Zealand, are perennials that appear on the hit list of almost every Australian business looking to expand offshore.
How do we keep up to date on Brexit?
Change brings great opportunity. The business that is armed with good information holds a competitive advantage when it comes to making the most of that opportunity.
Where else can businesses look for reliable information as national relationships change and morph, and as media feeds in a frenzied fashion on the contentious debates of British politicians?
The DFAT website is the very best place to begin, as it contains a mass of information on various meetings, objectives, submissions, trade figures, inquiries and more.
The inquiry into Australia’s trade and investment relationship with the UK can also be tracked on the Parliament of Australia website, including interim reports, Government responses, submissions, exhibits and more.
Peak bodies and corporate forums, such as the Australian British Chamber of Commerce and the European Australian Business Council, and their related social media pages, are also an excellent source of up-to-date information, contacts and networking opportunities.
The Australian Trade and Investment Commission, aka ‘AusTrade’, offers several special sections on its website that outline the importance of the UK’s foreign direct investment, as well as various publications, newsletters, reports and extraordinarily useful and detailed country profiles.
Finally, to read the news from the British point of view, visit the British Government’s news portal called ‘Australia and the UK’, which focuses specifically on events related to Australia.
There is plenty of reliable and up-to-date news available on the changing situation in Europe and what it means for Australian businesses. Staying on top of the change can offer great business benefits.
About the author
Chris Sheedy is one of Australia’s busiest and most successful freelance writers. He has been published regularly in the Sydney Morning Herald, Virgin Australia Voyeur, The Australian Magazine, GQ, In The Black, Cadillac, Management Today, Men’s Fitness and countless other big-brand publications. He is frequently commissioned to carry out copywriting and corporate writing projects for organisations, including banks, universities, television networks, restaurant chains and major charities, through his business The Hard Word.