The road back
Welcome to business envoy, a quarterly publication by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade connecting Australian business to insights from the Australian Government's global diplomatic network.
We face the most challenging of times as we work towards economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, exports have been a source of strength in the midst of the crisis, despite necessary health measures affecting the international education and tourism sectors. In March 2020, we recorded our 27th consecutive monthly trade surplus and a 15 per cent increase in goods and services exports.
The Australian Government is positioning the economy for a strong recovery. The expanded Export Market Development Grants program is providing funds for small and medium sized tourism and other enterprises for international marketing and promotional expenses, while the COVID-19 Export Capital Facility is giving Australian exporters access to business-saving loans. We are also supporting the establishment of ten export hubs in key sectors that will help small and medium-sized businesses to improve access to international markets.
With the majority of airfreight exports leaving Australia in the bellies of passenger aircraft, the pandemic's sudden and severe impact on passenger flights also seriously affected the movement of freight. In response, the Government implemented the International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) as a temporary emergency mechanism to support and maintain functioning global supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic.
IFAM has ensured Australia receives essential imports such as medicines and medical supplies. It also provides the opportunity, on the outbound legs, for Australian businesses trading internationally, including in the agricultural and seafood sectors, to resume servicing existing supply contracts with their international customers.
We are working hard to expand the range of opportunities available to our exporters, including maintaining momentum in free trade agreement negotiations with the European Union, and commencing free trade agreement negotiations with the United Kingdom.
I am pleased the entry into force of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership on 5 July has also introduced a range of new goods and services export opportunities, as well as investment opportunities, for Australian businesses during these difficult times.
Our steadfast commitment to open trade and investment has generated economic growth and sustained so many jobs in Australia over the past three decades. These foundations will help our economic recovery and contribute to a return to long-term prosperity.
Finally, congratulations to the successful joint bid from Australia and New Zealand to host the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023. I know that we all look forward to the time when we can safely welcome tourists, international students, business partners, relatives and friends from around the globe once again.
I trust you will find this edition interesting and informative. I extend my thanks to all contributors.
Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham
Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment