Terms of Reference

Review of financial assistance to Australian SME exporters

The Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, has appointed Ms Anna Fisher of Zontes Footstep to undertake a review to examine the most effective and efficient way to deliver financial assistance to Australian small to medium-sized exporters to encourage additional export development and promotion activities.  Minister Birmingham has also asked Christine Holgate of Australia Post and Bruce Armstrong of the Aspen Medical Group to be advisors to Ms Fisher, given their significant business experience as successful Australian exporters.

The Minister has called for the review under section 106A of the Export Market Development Grants Act 1997. The reviewer is asked to take a broad view of the most effective and efficient way to provide financial assistance to exporters, and to consider whether EMDG in its current form is the most effective and efficient way to generate additional export activity among the SME cohort. The reviewer is also asked to consider alternative options to provide assistance to SMEs to generate additional activity among the cohort.


Exporters play an important role in the Australian economy. On average, exporters grow faster, with higher levels of employment, capital expenditure, labour productivity, and wages. Exporting is associated with a higher probability of business survival.

EMDG is the Government’s primary financial assistance program, and has supported over 50,000 small and medium-sized (SME) exporters to enter and grow export markets for their goods, services, intellectual property and know-how since 1975. While the Government provided an additional $60 million to the scheme in the 2019-20 Budget, it has not seen significant reform in its 40 year history. The Government has committed to increase Australia’s exporting population by over 10,000 in the next three years, helping to create an additional 250,000 trade related jobs over the next five years. In this context, the scheme’s effectiveness and efficiency in generating additional export activity and employment opportunities for Australians should be considered.

This includes looking at how Government can make it easier and simpler for businesses to access support whilst maintaining transparency and value for taxpayer money to encourage additional market development and promotion activities. The outcomes of the review must be consistent with the Government’s prudent fiscal strategy and World Trade Organization obligations.

Terms of Reference

This Review will examine the most effective and efficient way for Government to provide assistance to SMEs that supports them to generate additional export sales delivering strong economic outcomes for Australia. A final report must be provided to the Minister by March 2020 which considers:

  1. How assistance to Australian SMEs can be delivered in the most effective way to encourage more businesses to begin exporting, to develop new export markets or to expand existing export markets. The review shall, among other matters, consider:
  • Factors that determine a business’ decision to choose to export or increase exports beyond usual business activity;
  • The best time in an export journey to target the financial assistance to change exporter behaviour;
  • The different types of assistance for businesses along their export journey; and
  • How this assistance can complement other export advisory services or other export market development incentives.
  1. How to design and administer any assistance in the most efficient way to:
  • Provide certainty of assistance to eligible applicants;
  • Deliver optimal results from the use of taxpayer funds;
  • Ensure integration of service delivery across Government where appropriate; 
  • Minimise compliance and application costs for applicants; and
  • Simplify and streamline administration to reduce administration costs.

The Review will also consider the findings of Austrade’s client services design projects, and take into account government policy, including the Digital Transformation Agenda and Streamlining Government Grants Administration program.

To support the Review, Austrade will commission research on Australian businesses to help to understand the export impact financial assistance can have, the characteristics of successful exporters and how to best activate additional export activity.