The Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) is the Australian Government’s agency for promoting trade, investment and international education, and strengthening Australia’s tourism industry. Austrade provides advice to the Australian Government on its trade, investment, international education and tourism policy agenda and delivers Australian consular, passport and other government services in specific overseas locations.
Austrade has a detailed knowledge of international markets and economic conditions. It has deep connections within those markets and understands Australia’s comparative advantages. Austrade’s unique value lies in its ability to combine that understanding and knowledge with its status as a government organisation to deliver opportunities and outcomes for Australian businesses and institutions.
Austrade helps Australian businesses to reduce the time, cost and risk of exporting through valued services, including through the administration of the Export Market Development Grants scheme, the TradeStart programme and the Asian Business Engagement Plan.1 Austrade works closely with state and territory governments to attract productive foreign direct investment into Australia. Austrade has responsibility for promoting Australia’s international education and training sector in overseas markets and assists Australian education providers with market information and services. Austrade also continues to manage the Building Brand Australia programme to enhance awareness of contemporary Australian skills and capability, and enrich Australia’s global reputation through its nation brand.
On 3 October 2013, responsibility for tourism policy, programmes and research was transferred to Austrade from the former Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism. Austrade now works across government on strengthening Australia’s tourism industry and implementing the national long-term tourism strategy, Tourism 2020. This consolidation complements Austrade’s trade, investment and education responsibilities and helps maximise the use of public resources.
Austrade’s services for Australian businesses
Austrade aims to provide services that create value for Australia’s business, education and tourism sectors, and do it in a way that represents a good investment for the taxpayer and that meets or exceeds all appropriate standards of ethical behaviour.
Through its network of advisers, located offshore and in Australia, Austrade helps internationally ready Australian businesses by:
- delivering market insight and intelligence
- providing advice on how to do business in prospective markets
- providing access to networks of key decision-makers, customers and contacts in overseas markets
- identifying and assessing business opportunities in international markets, and helping Australian businesses capture them
- providing badge-of-government assistance to firms in-market and helping them with behind-the-border barriers to trade and investment.
Austrade was established by the Australian Trade Commission Act 1985. It is a prescribed agency subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and the Public Service Act 1999 and is part of the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio.
Austrade, through its CEO, reports to the Minister for Trade and Investment. From 1 July 2013 to 18 September 2014, the Hon Richard Marles MP was the Minister for Trade. The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP was sworn in as Minister for Trade and Investment on 18 September 2014 and held the position for the remainder of the reporting year.
At 30 June 2014, Austrade operated in 82 overseas offices in 48 markets, as well as in 11 offices in Australia. Austrade also provided consular, passport and other government services in 16 consular posts that it manages overseas. Austrade’s Australian and overseas locations are shown in Figure 1 (see page 8).
At 30 June 2014, Austrade employed 1,032 staff, 74 per cent of whom were employed in client-focused operations in Australia and overseas.
In 2013–14, staff turnover was 13.5 per cent compared with 10.5 per cent in 2012–13. The gender balance was 45 per cent male and 55 per cent female. Further staffing information is provided in Appendix A.
In 2013–14, Austrade continued to maintain an effective financial management framework and achieved improvements in practices and processes. In a challenging financial environment, Austrade achieved its financial targets while integrating the tourism policy, programmes and research function, which was transferred from the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism on 3 October 2013. Table 1 provides a financial summary for 2011–12 to 2014–15. For further information, see page 160.
1. The Asian Century Business Engagement Plan was renamed the Asian Business Engagement Plan in December 2013.
|Departmental capital budget||15.3||18.5||11.0||14.5|
|Export Market Development Grants scheme||135.1||125.9||122.8||137.9|
|Asian Century Business Engagement Plan||–||–||1.8||1.5|
Note: Some figures have been rounded.
Austrade's history in brief
|1985–86||Austrade was established by the Australian Trade Commission Act 1985 to achieve a more efficient and vigorous export marketing effort for the Australian Government. Several export assistance agencies, including the Export Market Development Grants board, were consolidated into one organisation. Austrade also provided consular services in certain locations overseas. Operations commenced on 6 January 1986 and Austrade was located in the Industry portfolio.|
|1990||Austrade’s board commissioned McKinsey & Company to review the span of the agency’s activity and the way it was organised in Australia and overseas. As a result, Austrade was restructured to include a group of 10 executive general managers, with six of those positions each directing an overseas region.|
|1991||Austrade moved from the Industry portfolio to the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio. Its head office also moved from Canberra to Sydney.|
|1992–93||Austrade established its National Export Hotline—13 28 78.|
|1996||Austrade was again restructured with its 10 executive general managers reduced to seven.|
|1997–99||Eight TradeStart offices were opened, extending Austrade’s export advisory services to regional Australia. The Business Club Australia programme was also launched.|
|2001–02||An agreement was negotiated between federal, state and territory governments to cooperate in doubling the number of Australian companies exporting.|
|2006||From 1 July 2006, Austrade operated under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and its board of directors was replaced with an executive management structure. Prior to 1 July 2006, Austrade operated under the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997.|
|2008||Austrade was given responsibility for the promotion and attraction of productive foreign direct investment into Australia.|
|2010||Austrade was given responsibility for the international promotion of Australia’s education and training sector.|
|2011||A comprehensive review of Austrade was endorsed by the Government, resulting in a realignment of Austrade’s network, with trade resources focused on Asian and growth and emerging markets that provide the greatest opportunities for Australian businesses. Austrade’s investment resources were focused on more mature, capital-rich markets.|
|2013||Austrade was given responsibility for tourism policy, programmes and research.|