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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade :: 2001-2002 Annual Report
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Output 1.3:

Services to other agencies in Australia and overseas (including Parliament, state representatives, business and other organisations)

1.3.1 Parliament in Australia

1.3.2 Services to attached agencies

1.3.3 Services to business

1.3.4 Services to state governments and other agencies overseas and in Australia

Page Contents

Overview

Much of the department's work in providing whole-of-government services to the Government and the Australian community is directed towards protecting and advancing Australia's national interests as reported in output 1.1. Our work on behalf of Commonwealth parliamentarians, state and territory governments, business and other agencies frequently involves the same approach and includes:

  • assistance with the development of international visit programs and other logistical help overseas
  • provision of administrative services to agencies attached to the department's overseas missions, including communications, office support and property management
  • provision of tactical advice and analysis to Australian business and representations made to foreign governments on their behalf
  • provision of statistical and other factual information about aspects of Australia's relationship with international organisations and foreign countries or about those organisations and countries themselves.

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Parliament in Australia

The department, including our global network of posts, helped arrange 159 overseas visits programs for individual Members and Senators and for parliamentary delegations. These visits contributed to the establishment of links and strengthening of relations between the Australian Parliament and parliaments of other countries. They also provided opportunities for study and observation of developments in a wide variety of fields relevant to the interests of the Australian community.

The support we provided included program suggestions and guidance on in-country travel; identifying and making appointments with key people in specific fields of interest; and providing written and oral background briefings on foreign and trade policy matters related to the visits. Written advice of the services offered by the department in Canberra and by our overseas posts for such travel was provided to all parliamentarians in the revised Overseas Travel by Parliamentarians-Travel assistance handbook for Parliamentarians and Staff, issued in February 2002.

The work we undertook for the Commonwealth Parliament included assisting:

  • several parliamentary delegation visits to Asia, including visits to Indonesia and Korea in July 2001 and to Singapore in September 2001
  • a parliamentary delegation attending the 22nd Asian Inter-Parliamentary Organization General Assembly in Thailand in September 2001
  • a parliamentary delegation visit to Germany and Finland in April 2002
  • parliamentary delegations attending Inter-Parliamentary Union meetings in Burkina Faso in September 2001 and Morocco in March 2002, the United Nations General Assembly in the United States (New York) in September 2001 and the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum in the United States (Honolulu) in January 2002
  • visits by Australian observer delegations to East Timor in August 2001 and April 2002 and to Zimbabwe in March 2002
  • a visit to the United Kingdom by the Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD in May 2002
  • visits by individual parliamentarians to Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

We provided the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (JSCFADT) with briefing on developments in Indonesia and on reform of the United Nations; the JSCFADT Human Rights Sub-Committee with briefing on Afghanistan, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Indonesia, Papua (Indonesia) and people smuggling; and the JSCFADT Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee with briefing on the work of the department more broadly during the committee's public hearing on the department's annual report. We also appeared before the JSCFADT Human Rights Sub-Committee inquiry into the link between aid and human rights.

In addition, we provided extensive program and other support for a number of visits overseas by Commonwealth ministers representing portfolios other than foreign affairs and trade.

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Services to attached agencies

The department provided common administrative services to government agencies overseas under a service level agreement (SLA). The SLA, introduced on 1 July 2001, represents a marked improvement on the Common Administrative Services agreement that it replaced. It uses an improved methodology for determining associated costs. It centralises service fee collection in Canberra and strengthens service monitoring and dispute resolution processes. It also provides agencies with greater flexibility to move staffing resources to areas of greater need without increased costs. It is designed to facilitate the efficient administration of government business overseas while avoiding operational and financial duplication.

Services are provided under the SLA on a user-pays basis. These include management services, financial services, office services, property services, and communications for both Australia-based employees and locally engaged staff (see quality and quantity information on page 119 for feedback from the department's SLA clients).

Austrade is not a signatory to the SLA and receives common administrative services from the department under a bilateral memorandum of understanding. Austrade posts have the option of receiving either the full range of services, as provided under the SLA, or essential services only.

The department began the international roll-out of its new information technology system, SATIN, to agencies at overseas posts (see output 1.2 at page 102 for further detail). We provided training and a broad range of project management services to help agencies deploy the system. We undertook extensive research and development to ensure that agency systems were integrated with the communications infrastructure and operating environment.

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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 reporting under Output 1.1. Services included arrangements for high-level consultative meetings, support for individual enterprises and work through a number of bodies and processes to develop particular sectors. These services included:

Market information and analysis Click to view related information - opens in new window
The department continued to operate a consultancy service providing 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-covering exports and imports with over 220 partner countries (including cross-classification by commodity and industry), and information about the international trade of more than 100 countries. In 2001-02 we responded to more than 7400 requests for this service, including a number from overseas.

Our statistical database-which has been re-developed using the latest data-handling technology-is the main source of statistical information for departmental publications provided to external clients. Our online market information service to Australian exporters, TradeWatch, was further expanded in 2001-02 and now covers 28 economies, including the European Union.

APEC Business Advisory Council
The department continued to deliver benefits to the business community through our involvement in APEC and with the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). In May 2002, we were the major sponsor and played a central role in hosting in Sydney the second ABAC meeting of the year. The meeting provided a valuable opportunity for leading regional business representatives to network and discuss key business issues and ways to facilitate more cost effective and efficient business in the Asia-Pacific region.

Recent gains for business achieved through the department's work on APEC trade facilitation initiatives include:

  • agreement by APEC members to adopt the global harmonised system on hazard classification and labelling of chemicals and safety data sheets by 2006. We worked closely with the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association to achieve this outcome, which has the potential to save Australian chemical exporters up to $600 million a year
  • agreement by three more APEC member economies (China, Taiwan-designated as Chinese Taipei-and Indonesia) to join the Australian-developed APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) scheme. This brings to 13 the number of APEC economies that can provide ABTC-holding Australian business travellers with streamlined travel, entry and departure arrangements.

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

Market access-automotive industry Click to view related information - opens in new window
The department worked closely with the automotive industry on a wide range of market access and market development issues. Significant gains in access to China and Taiwan should occur over the next few years as a result of their membership of the WTO. Brunei also cut its tariffs markedly in 2001. Nevertheless, major barriers remain, particularly in ASEAN countries.

The department prepared, in consultation with industry, a case for integrating the Australian and Thai automotive markets under an FTA. The subsequent launch of FTA negotiations with Thailand was welcomed by industry as potentially providing a breakthrough into the ASEAN market.

We also raised the profile of Australia's market access concerns generally through the APEC Auto Dialogue under Australia's chairmanship. Meetings with Chinese industry in October 2001 led to a successful mission to China organised by Austrade. The department facilitated the sale of six Australian-made vehicles to Australian posts in China to showcase the cars. We also devised a more comprehensive policy for our posts to purchase and thus promote Australian cars wherever practicable.

Market access-processed foods Click to view related information - opens in new window
The department worked with nearly 100 food companies to identify and help with market access problems and explain agrifood trade policy issues. The benefits of maintaining market access were highlighted by exports of certain cheeses to Japan's dairy processing industry exceeding $100 million in 2001.

Under the new National Food Industry Strategy announced by the Government in September 2001, the department worked closely with the Prime Minister's Supermarket to Asia Council to start implementing the export component. We completed the first part of a major information resource for food-exporters under the Strategy-Mr Vaile launched in December 2001 the first volume of research work on agrifood globalisation and Asia.

The department liaised with the processed food industry to ensure its interests were addressed in WTO and FTA negotiations. This included a case study on agribusiness and processed food issues in the scoping study for an FTA with Thailand.

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Market access-information industries
The department broadened its information industries market access work to encompass e-commerce and other 'new economy' issues. This work included negotiating the e-commerce chapter of the proposed Australia-Singapore FTA and the development of Australia's position on e-commerce cooperation in preparation for negotiations under the proposed Australia-Thailand FTA. We maintained efforts to enhance opportunities for increased exports of ICT goods and services, including through the work program on IT non-tariff measures in the WTO.

Market access-textiles, clothing and footwear Click to view related information - opens in new window
Our representations to Poland resulted in a cut of more than 50 per cent in the tariff on non-EU imports of high quality furniture leather. We also secured an undertaking from Japan to examine Australia's proposal for better administration of the tariff quota on footwear.

The department worked closely with the wool industry and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Australia to address market access issues in Vietnam. We helped to improve market access conditions for Australian wool and wool-tops to China, and developed a strategy to reduce India's high wool tariffs. We prepared a case study on textiles and clothing for the Australia-Thailand FTA scoping study.

The department spearheaded the formation of a working group to examine measures which distorted trade in cotton at the sixtieth meeting of the International Cotton Advisory Committee in September 2001 in Zimbabwe. The working group report will be used to press the case for liberalisation of cotton markets in the new WTO Round. The department continued to coordinate industry participation in the Asia Pacific Textiles and Clothing Industry Forum.

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 federal and state government agencies to promote the benefits of trade across Australia. Each office pursued a state-specific program designed to ensure that business communities throughout Australia had access to information on, and made input into, the development of the Government's trade policy priorities (see sub-output 3.1.1 at page 159 for further detail on the work of state and territory offices).

Image - see caption below

The department's Northern Territory office regularly participates in trade and business expositions in Darwin, Alice Springs and Katherine as part of the office's business relations and trade outreach strategy. Pictured at the Centralian Expo held in Alice Springs in March 2002 are Don Smith (right), Director, Northern Territory office, and The Hon Warren Snowdon MP (left).

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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 market access challenges in Indonesia and tariff barriers in Mexico; automotive exporters with access to US markets; aquaculture and dairy providers seeking to develop markets in Latin America; promotion of mining and energy interests and education services in Africa, and the live meat trade in the Middle East; and exporters of dairy, meat and other animal products with new opportunities in Europe. We also supported the work of Australian companies in North Asia, South-East Asia and South Asia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and the South Pacific through provision of policy advice and by organising high-level government access.

Services to state governments and other agencies overseas and in Australia

The department played a significant role preparing for and supporting visits overseas by state and territory ministers and officials, Commonwealth government officials and others. Some examples include:

  • visits to China, Japan and Republic of Korea by several state premiers and parliamentary delegations, and by a territory chief minister, including to promote trade and investment interests
  • a visit to Singapore by a state premier, and to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand by a state parliamentary delegation, including to promote investment opportunities and explore prospects for cooperation in IT, biosciences and the environment
  • visits by several state and territory representatives to East Timor, including for East Timor's independence celebrations
  • a visit by one state premier and an accompanying state minister to the United States, United Kingdom and Germany to promote financial services
  • visits to Denmark, Italy and Spain by several state premiers and other state ministers, including to examine a range of social, economic and environmental issues
  • a visit to Ireland by a state delegation for negotiations on IT cooperation
  • visits to the United Arab Emirates by two state premiers, and to Saudi Arabia and Egypt by several state ministers, to explore market opportunities and promote trade and investment
  • visits to Canada by three state premiers and other state ministers for the BIO-2002 biotechnology event, and by another state minister for a study tour on transport issues
  • visits by state trade and investment missions to Chile
  • visits by two state veterinary officers to Argentina and Uruguay to investigate foot and mouth disease in those countries.

Through our Torres Strait Liaison Office on Thursday Island we provided particular support and practical assistance to a range of Queensland government agencies on matters relating to Australia's obligations under the Torres Strait Treaty.

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We also provided briefings, policy advice and other support to a wide range of Commonwealth agencies on international aspects of their respective agendas, activities and programs. This included helping to arrange visit programs; participating in negotiations on bilateral agreements and understandings; and facilitating and providing representation at international meetings. Some examples include:

  • facilitating finalisation of a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation on social policies and programs between the Department of Family and Community Services and its Singaporean counterpart
  • assisting the Treasury and the Australian Taxation Office in negotiations which led to the signing of a protocol to the double taxation agreement between Australia and the United States
  • coordinating arrangements for Environment Australia and other relevant agencies to participate in the Sixth (resumed) and Seventh Conferences of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in July 2001 and November 2001 respectively
  • supporting a visit by a senior Export Finance and Insurance Corporation official to Argentina in February 2002 for discussions on economic and financial issues.

Open Source Collection Unit
Through the Open Source Collection Unit, the department continued to provide translations and summaries of news from Indonesian and Pacific broadcast, print and Internet media. The events of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent war against terrorism greatly increased demands on the unit's media monitoring services, particularly of the Indonesian language media. The unit was commended by Australian and international customers, including government agencies, for its careful selection of appropriate material and rapid response to specific tasking requirements.

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