Exports account for around 22% of our GDP; and our balance of trade, and our trade activities generally, are having an increasing influence on the lives of all Australians.
Historically it was the commodity providers in wheat, wool, gold and coal/iron-ore who were the vanguard of our export performance, and it was more in the area of imported products where everyday Australian’s saw a direct impact…imported cars, electronics, fashion and TV programs.
Things have certainly moved on and now our export products and services are very widely based,; and are just as likely to be sourced from small family outfits as from large multinationals. The tyranny of distance has reduced, and around the world high tariff barriers have been falling. It is estimated that 1 in 5 jobs is now directly related to export.
With some 45% of Australians either born overseas, or having at least one parent who was, our interest and our knowledge of the globe has also expanded. Asia is now the destination of 68% of our merchandise trade. Inward tourism, education, and our services sectors have broadened the mix of where our export earnings derive. And without strong export earnings our currency falls, imports cost more, and either our foreign debt, or our quality of life will suffer…or both!
So it is important that all Australians become aware of the importance of Trade to our economy. Universities now are placing increasing emphasis on International Business and International Marketing courses, so that our graduates have a strong appreciation of world trends before heading into employment. We hope that the overseas students studying here will also take back a strong affiliation with Australia, which in turn can only assist with future opportunities for two-way trade.
To cement this trade and export culture, it is important for our media to continually update us on activities, events and particularly the success stories of our businesses trading overseas…and not just the big guys! We all need to be aware of the growing importance of trade flows to our lives; it will define many of the future career paths and roles of today’s students.
So the message is for the community at large to understand the importance of trade flows on their lives, and through that understanding we are better placed to recognize and acknowledge the successes of our small and medium sized exporters. This will in turn encourage other businesses to emulate their success and an export culture is established.
Peter Mace, General Manager, Australian Institute of Export