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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Annual Report 2000-2001
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OUTPUT 1.4:
International services to other agencies in Australia and overseas (including Parliament, State representatives, business and other organisations)
 

Output 1.4 Effectiveness indicators

1.4.1 Parliament in Australia

Effectiveness indicator

1.4.2 Services to attached agencies overseas

Effectiveness indicators

1.4.3 Services to business

Effectiveness indicators

1.4.4 Services to State Governments and other agencies overseas and in Australia

Effectiveness indicators

Overview

Much of the department’s work in providing whole-of-government services to government and the Australian community is directed towards protecting and advancing Australia’s national interests as reported in outputs 1.1 and 1.2. Our work on behalf of Commonwealth parliamentarians, State and Territory governments, business and other agencies frequently involves the same approach and is covered in the following section of the report, including:

See description below - click image for a larger version

Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, meets children in Beijing whose hearing has been restored by Australian-developed Cochlear "bionic ear" implants, at the signing in April 2001 of an agreement to extend cooperation between Cochlear Limited and the China Rehabilitation Research Centre for Deaf Children. Pictured with the Minister is Deng Pufang, President of the China Disabled Person’s Federation and Australia’s Ambassador to China, David Irvine (back left).

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Parliament in Australia

Travel overseas by individual Members and Senators and parliamentary delegations contributed to the establishment of links and strengthening of relations between the Australian parliaments and parliaments of other countries. The travel also provided opportunities for study and observation of developments relevant to the interests of the Australian community.

The department supported the arrangement at least than 228 overseas visits programs for Commonwealth parliamentarians, both for individuals and for delegations. This support included planning advice such as program suggestions and guidance on in-country travel; identifying and making appointments with key people in a specific field of interest; and giving background briefings on foreign and trade policy matters related to the visits. Written advice was provided to all parliamentarians in Overseas Travel by Parliamentarians—Travel Assistance Handbook for Parliamentarians and Staff.

The work undertaken by the department for the Commonwealth Parliament included assisting:

We also provided the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (JSCFADT) Click to view external web site - opens in new window Main Committee with briefing on developments in Fiji, Indonesia and Japan, and the JSCFADT Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee with briefing on the Middle East, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Nigeria and East Timor; and with supplementary briefing for its inquiry into Australia’s relations with the United Nations.

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Services to attached agencies overseas

The department provided common services to Australian Government agencies overseas under the Common Administrative Services (CAS) agreement. The agreement facilitated efficient and effective Australian Government business overseas through improved management and use of resources and the avoidance of operational and financial duplication.

The CAS agreement provided agencies, on a user-pays basis, with personnel services, office services, property services, financial services and communications for both Australian-based staff and locally engaged staff. Twenty-nine agencies and departments were signatories to the CAS agreement, which covered more than 2,500 staff. The main purchasers of services under the agreement were the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, the Department of Defence and Austrade. Feedback from our CAS clients is reported on page 132.

The CAS agreement concluded on 30 June 2001 and a replacement agreement, called the Service Level Agreement (SLA), was successfully negotiated with 19 agencies and departments. The SLA commenced in July 2001 for a three-year period, with the option of a two-year extension.

The department developed a new diplomatic communications system to improve the information technology services available to agencies in overseas posts. We installed the SATIN system in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in December 2000 and will be installing it at other government agency sites in Australia and 93 sites overseas. We provided improved satellite or terrestrial telecommunications services to overseas posts.

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Services to business

Support services provided by the department to Australian business are detailed below. Much of this work also forms part of the reporting under outputs 1.1 and 1.2. Services included arrangements for high-level consultative meetings, support for individual enterprises and the establishment of a number of bodies to develop particular sectors. These services included:

Market information and analysis Click to view related information - opens in new window

The department continued to provide statistical information and advice, on a fee-for-service basis, for Australian businesses and researchers interested in overseas markets. The service specialises in trade and economic data.

Very comprehensive trade data spanning more than 20 years are held on the department’s statistical database. It contains information about the international trade of over 100 countries and is the main source for our publications and statistical information services provided to external clients.

We have invested significant funds into a project to re-develop the database. Commenced in 2001 and due for completion by mid-2002, the re-development will build the latest data-handling technology into the system. The result will be enhanced analytical functions and speed of information retrieval, enabling us to deliver more timely and higher-quality output to clients.

Our online market information service to Australian exporters, TradeWatch Click to view related information - opens in new window, was expanded to cover 22 countries and the European Union.

APEC Australian Business Forum Click to view related information - opens in new window

On 27 April 2001, Mr Vaile hosted the APEC Australian Business Forum in Melbourne. With the theme of ‘Business and Policy Strategies in the Asia-Pacific’, the forum brought together 160 leading business people and government officials to discuss how APEC can help lower business costs in the region. The forum included industry–government focus groups on finance, manufacturing and e-commerce, as well as a panel discussion. The department is using the results of the conference to develop APEC’s forward work agenda. In an effort to communicate APEC’s work more effectively, the department produced 4,000 copies of the booklet APEC 2001 for distribution to Australia’s business community.

Market access facilitation Click to view related information - opens in new window

The Automotive Trade Council, co-chaired by Mr Vaile and the Minister for Industry and Resources, Senator Nick Minchin, provides a high-level forum for business and government to work together in providing strategic direction and management of the Government’s Automotive Trade Strategy. The business representatives on the Council comprise ten senior executives from vehicle and component manufacturers. In 2000–01, the Council focused on trade and investment issues, particularly market development and access. The department provided analysis and advice to the Council on market access priorities and impediments to the export of Australian automotive products.

Our Automotive Market Access Team Click to view related information - opens in new window, established as part of the Government’s Automotive Trade Strategy, made a significant contribution in assisting the Australian automotive industry to improve its export performance and links with the global automotive industry. This effort helped the industry to increase exports by almost 30 per cent from $3.22 billion in 1999 to a record $4.2 billion in 2000.

As part of the Strategy the department engaged high-level government and industry contacts in priority markets identified by Australian industry. In particular, we continued efforts with Thailand to identify areas for greater bilateral cooperation in automotive products and to reinforce the importance and benefits to Thailand of reducing its high tariff barriers and other market protection measures. We also participated in two joint industry–government missions in November 2000 and April 2001.

The department provided strategic direction and administrative assistance for Australia’s chairmanship of the APEC Automotive Dialogue, a senior government–industry forum established to address key issues of concern to the automotive sector and facilitate greater regional integration. The APEC Automotive Dialogue and its associated Steering Committee have established a substantial work program addressing issues that affect Australian market access, such as harmonisation of automotive technical regulations, effective automotive policies, assistance to suppliers, e-commerce, intellectual property rights and customs procedures.

Representations on specific market access issues of concern to the automotive industry were also made in the Middle East, United States, Japan, Korea and China. We circulated a major ASEAN policy advocacy study to key policy-makers in the region.

Following close consultation with Australian industry, the Information Industries Market Access Team provided valuable input to Australia’s efforts to establish a work program on non-tariff measures in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee for the Enhancement of Trade in Information Technology Products. The program will enhance opportunities for increased Australian exports of IT products.

The department was the lead agency in developing the Australia–India Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperation in the Information Industries, signed by Mr Vaile during a visit to New Delhi in October 2000. The MOU provided for the establishment of an Australia–India Information Industries Business Network, inaugurated during a trade mission in December 2000, when Australian companies concluded a number of export deals. The first major commercial outcome of the MOU was an export deal worth $13.6 million.

The Processed Food and Beverage Team Click to view related information - opens in new window liaised with the Australian processed food industry to ensure its market access interests were addressed in the WTO agricultural trade negotiations. The team worked closely with the Prime Minister’s Supermarket to Asia Council to develop a National Food Industry Strategy, which identified exports and enhanced market access as key issues. The Strategy is expected to be released in the second half of 2001.

The team consulted nearly 100 food companies, visiting every State, to identify market access problems and explain agrifood trade policy issues. A particular effort was made to contact firms in rural and regional areas, where much of the food industry is based, particularly smaller companies. The team continued its fight to maintain exports of certain cheeses, worth $40–50 million a year, to Japan’s dairy processing industry. Despite some setbacks, exports had resumed by mid-2001 and, using international standards and WTO rules to support our case, we continued our negotiations with Japan.

The Textiles, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) Market Access Team Click to view related information - opens in new window worked in concert with business, other agencies and our overseas network to identify and address market access issues affecting TCF exports. Gains included reduction of wool tariffs in Russia, Mexico and Pakistan. The United States reduced its tariffs on woollen fabric used in men’s suiting effective 1 January 2001. However, tariffs on woollen clothing and some woollen fabric remain high.

We undertook a comprehensive industry consultation program to examine market-distorting support programs affecting the cotton industry. Monitoring these programs remained a priority. We also pursued further reduction or elimination of tariffs in priority markets, including better access for Australian exporters to the Japanese footwear market.

The department chaired the Natural Fibre Trade Facilitation Committee at the fifth Asia Pacific Textiles and Clothing Forum (ASPAC) held from 14–16 November 2000 in China. The forum was attended by 120 delegates from 12 member economies. Australia achieved agreement to its proposal that standardising wool content definitions would be considered by member governments before the next forum in Pakistan in October 2001. Acceptance of the proposal will improve market access for wool products amongst Asia-Pacific nations.

Ten senior private sector representatives from the electric energy industry are members of the Electric Energy Industry Export Council Click to view external web site - opens in new window, which seeks to expand electric energy exports throughout the world. Using information gathered through the department’s network of overseas posts and other sources, we provided the council with an update of developments in its four target markets: Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Malaysia.

Our State and Territory offices maintained extensive contact with industry and business on a wide range of trade and investment issues. The offices were a valuable channel of communication between the department and business communities in the State capitals and regional and rural areas, with each office working closely with Austrade and State Government agencies to promote the benefits of trade across Australia. Each office developed a State-specific program designed to ensure business communities throughout Australia had access to information on, and made input into, the development of the Government’s trade policy priorities.

Our network of overseas posts provided support and advice to hundreds of Australian companies on the ground in countries around the world. This support included high- level representations to government; hospitality and support for events to promote Australian products or expertise; the development of guidelines for businesses entering foreign markets; and advice on market conditions. To give some examples, these efforts assisted firms confronted with changing tariff barriers in Indonesia; wheat, lamb, coal and sugar exporters with access to US markets; wine, mining technology and education service providers seeking to establish markets in South America; and mining, food and agricultural businesses in pursing changes to legislation, tax regimes and tariffs in sub-Saharan Africa. The department helped Australian companies operating in Europe and Russia, including through facilitating efforts to resolve taxation matters for multinational businesses, negotiating against bans on Australian products and providing briefings for business. We also supported the work of Australian companies in South-East and South Asia, the Middle East, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and the South Pacific through provision of policy advice and by organising high-level government access.

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Services to State Governments and other agencies overseas and in Australia

The department played a significant role preparing for and supporting the following visits by State and Territory ministers and officials, Commonwealth Government officials, academics and other members of the public:

Open Source Collection Unit

Through the Open Source Collection Unit, the department produced daily translations, reports and summaries of news from the Indonesian electronic and print media. The unit also provided coverage of media from the Pacific for a twice-weekly Pacific media summary. Selection of material relevant to Australia’s political and strategic interests has supported policy-makers by providing quality coverage of Indonesia and the Pacific during a year of significant social, political and economic changes. The department has attracted high praise in Australia and overseas for the unit’s timely and well-focused media reporting.

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