A HEAVY focus on free trade agreements has led to other international market opportunities being overlooked, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has warned.

The ACCI has lodged a submission with the Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth under the name of Chamber director of trade and international relations, Bryan Clark.

“The emphasis in recent years on trade agreements as the only means for improvement has meant that other, possibly more effective, means of creating new market opportunities have been neglected,” Mr Clark said.

“Our members have told us that, for small and medium enterprises in particular, FTAs are too complex to be of benefit,” he said.

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“Australia has retained unnecessary internal costs by maintaining tariffs and border compliance that have led to us being the 106th nation in terms of ease of doing business across borders according to the World Bank.”

Mr Clark said a decade had been spent talking about “trade modernisation” with little to show for the millions of dollars in government investment and scoping studies.

The Chamber also noted supply chain disruption due to the pandemic as well as trade trends in the Asia-Pacific.

“China looms large as the predominant trading partner over the past decade, as the scale of trade is clearly attractive to all sectors,” Mr Clark said.

“Minerals and resources overwhelm our trade in goods for export to China, but it is also key player for services exports including tourism and education,” he said.

“It is important to recognise however that these characteristics are also common with both Japan and South Korea, although both to a lesser degree. When we analyse our other key markets, divergence in both the type of goods traded and the scale is notable.”

Mr Clark said it was important for Australia “to cultivate a wide and diverse range of trading partners”. “We therefore need to look for new market opportunities, as well as maintain our historic ones,” he said.

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