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Business Envoy

COVID-19 and breaking down non-tariff barriers

The Australian Government, especially in responding to COVID-19, is committed to maintaining open and connected supply chains, and to removing unjustified trade barriers. Whilst there will be far reaching economic impacts, it is as important as ever for goods and services to flow. This is why we continue to advocate for a stable and open global trading system that provides a strong international framework for Australian goods and services exporters to bounce back from the crisis.

Building services and digital trade

Trade in services is critical to Australia's international competitiveness and economic prosperity, accounting for 20.7 per cent of exports pre-COVID. Australia is working with other World Trade Organization members to conclude plurilateral negotiations on Services Domestic Regulation which will help our services exporters by improving the transparency of behind-the-border licencing and qualifications procedures.

Digital trade achievements, including our landmark Digital Economy Agreement with Singapore and ongoing free trade agreement negotiations with the European Union, are setting new benchmarks for digital trade rules. They will help position fintech and the next generation of industries entering digital markets, including health and the creative services, to succeed.

Maintaining supply chains for Australian exporters

Australia is leveraging its leadership in multilateral forums to advocate for commitments globally to ensure that global supply chains are not distorted or put under undue strain. This is important for Australia and our trading partners as they seek food, medical and health security through our exports.

COVID relief for export documentation

The Australian Government has advocated, where possible, for e-documentation for Australian exporters during the COVID pandemic. While the results have been dependant on the e-documentation our trading partners have accepted, this has helped our exporters get their goods into country faster than otherwise possible and minimised disruptions to the supply of quality Australian products.

As an example, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia has been exploring temporary arrangements for acceptance of Certificates of Origin (COO) and commercial documents in electronic format with the Parties to the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA): Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and New Zealand. Most AANZFTA Parties have indicated a preparedness to exercise greater flexibility. Further details can be found on DFAT's website.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is also continuing to investigate and promote paperless trade for Australian food and agricultural businesses. This includes advocating the use of electronic biosecurity and food safety certification (eCert) trial opportunities or, where feasible, working with trading partners to accept scanned or electronic documentation in lieu of hard copies.

COVID-19 has given this work extra impetus, as the delivery of hard-copy documents and the availability of government officials at international ports and points of entry has been disrupted.

The Australian Government will continue to work with trading partners and exporters to drive positive, long-term, trade-facilitating changes for agricultural trade.

COVID-19 changes here to stay?

The Australian Government, continues to advocate that the temporary relaxation of export documentation requirements are made permanent.

It is likely that the global trading environment will continue to adapt and respond to challenges relating to goods and services shortages if, and when, they arise.

Progress continues on trade barriers

The Australian Government continues to work with other countries to improve trade conditions and remove non-tariff barriers, including those imposed on Australian exports during COVID-19.

Non-tariff barriers can be significant impediments for exporters.

The Australian Government is committed to continuing to advance the interests of exporters, including overcoming non-tariff barriers.

Progress made since the launch of the Non-Tariff Barriers Action Plan

Since the Australian Government launched the Non-Tariff Barriers Action Plan in 2018, the number of potential and actual barriers we are addressing has reached more than 300 in over 70 different markets.

Report a barrier

If you are experiencing a barrier, especially a COVID-19 measure that is impeding your exports, report it at, or email the Non-Tariff Barriers Coordination Team at

For general business support visit or call 13 28 46.

Case study: Another win for Aussie red meat in the Middle East

The extension of shelf life for vacuum-packed red meat in Middle East economies has been an excellent outcome for the Australian red meat industry. In 2017, the United Arab Emirates extended its maximum shelf life, with Kuwait announcing recently (April 2020) that it would do the same. There are positive signs that Saudi Arabia is also set to follow.

“Australia has not previously been able to take advantage of the fantastic shelf life that Australian product has in the Middle East because of non-tariff barriers. The increase in shelf life in the Middle East has an estimated industry benefit of $100 million dollars.”

Jason Strong, Managing Director,
Meat & Livestock Australia.

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