Development of Australia's Services Exports Action Plan

The 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper outlined the Government’s interest in boosting the competitiveness of the Australian economy, and specifically to boost services exports beyond education and tourism to increase productivity, jobs and economic growth.

Reflecting this priority, the 2018-19 Budget provided the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) with $1.5 million over two years to develop an industry-led initiative to address barriers to Australia’s services exports and boost our services competitiveness. It was also timely that in September 2018 the OECD released its “Australian Services Trade in the Global Economy” report highlighting the importance of an industry government coordinated approach to domestic policy action in advancing the international competitiveness of Australia’s services exports.

In November 2018, at a high-level industry roundtable, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, then-Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, initiated a partnership between industry, DFAT and Austrade to identify and act on barriers holding back Australia’s services firms from exporting.

Participants agreed to establish Working Groups across specific services subsectors to prepare proposals to feed into an Action Plan.

In mid-2019, working groups on professional, financial, e-commerce and information and communications technology (ICT) industry sectors provided 44 recommendations for both government and industry to consider. These recommendations sought to make progress across three key pillars:

  • Address domestic regulatory complexity
  • Make progress on barriers overseas; and
  • Support services firms as they internationalise.

The Government’s response, together with industry recommendations, was launched by the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment in November 2019 and formed the initial phase of the Services Exports Action Plan.

Commencing in late 2019 and through the first half of 2020, DFAT and Austrade continued consultations through further working groups across the health, creative, financial technology (FinTech) and mining equipment, technology and services (METS) industry sectors.

In addition, in April 2020, separate consultations with industry stakeholders who participated in all working groups since 2019 were held to identify challenges and opportunities presented by the pandemic.

These post-November 2019 consultations, including the COVID-19 challenges and opportunities discussions, resulted in a further 28 recommendations, bringing the total to 72 recommendations for government and industry to consider. In total, 64 industry representatives contributed throughout the consultations.

DFAT and Austrade worked with other parts of Government and industry to formulate the ‘actions’ and identify progress on actions to date in this report. Those actions include both work already underway as well as new and planned initiatives that are aimed at achieving the five broad outcomes of this Action Plan that encompass the 72 industry recommendations. 

DFAT and Austrade look forward to continuing a strong partnership with industry to ensure the cumulative insights and progress of Australian business continue to feed into a ‘live’ Services Exports Action Plan, which is industry led, and supported by Government. The Action Plan will be updated on an annual basis through publications on a dedicated Services Exports Action Plan website.

Development of the Services Export Action Plan

October 2018

Publication of OECD Report on Australian services sector

November 2018

Services Roundtable, Parliament House

Feb - Apr 2019

Working Group meetings

August 2019

Industry recommendations to Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment

Sep - Oct 2019

Consultation on recommendations with government agencies

November 2019

Services Roundtable & launch of interim report

Feb - May 2020

Working Group meetings

July 2020

Industry recommendations to Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment

Aug - Oct 2020

Consultation on actions with government

April 2021

Launch of the Action Plan