Ease of movement of people, capital, services and data across borders
Government and industry will jointly increase the international mobility of professionals with key export markets by establishing mutual recognition arrangements of professional licensing and registration, and pathways for foreign professionals to practice for a limited time or in a limited capacity.
Continue to pursue the recognition of Australian qualifications and professional recognition overseas, and in-demand foreign qualifications in Australia.
Relevant Australian regulators and industry associations should work with counterparts in key markets to develop a special category of professional recognition to allow international professionals to practice aspects of their profession in the host-country.
Progress to date
Australia continues to include professional services specific chapters or annexes in free trade agreements to provide an ongoing facilitative mechanism for regulators and industry associations to work with their counterparts in FTA partner countries to:
- develop temporary, limited or project-specific licensing or registration regime for professionals; and
- negotiate and implement mutual recognition agreements.
This includes free trade agreements under negotiation, such as with the European Union, as well as efforts to build-on existing agreements, such as the Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement.
During the eleventh negotiating round between Australia and the European Union on 1-11 June 2021, the mutual recognition and professional services chapter was provisionally closed. The Chapter includes a framework for the mutual recognition of professional services qualifications, licensing and registration between Australia and the European Union.
At the first meeting of the Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement Joint Commission on 24 June 2021, the Parties agreed to consider establishing a professional services subsidiary body and will conduct stakeholder consultations and begin work on possible Terms of Reference for consideration.
Australia has at least 57 mutual recognition agreements of professional qualifications, licensing or registration that are active across 19 countries and seven professions. Of those agreements, 19 were finalised since the establishment of DFAT’s Professional Services and Mutual Recognition Unit in 2016, including in three new markets. This includes an an agreement signed in May 2021 between the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.
More information on Australia’s mutual recognition agreements can be found through the Australia-funded APEC Professional and Skilled Services Gateway.
Australia is funding two Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation(APEC)projects on improving professional mobility.
The APEC Professional and Skilled Services Gateway provides an inventory of all known mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) on licensing, qualifications and accreditation of professionals and skilled service providers in APEC economies. Listing 178 agreements, it is the most comprehensive database of mutual recognition agreements. For individuals and firms, the inventory provides a simple means of identifying MRAs that could better facilitate their work across borders. For governments and recognition bodies the inventory provides an overview of all agreements in place, which can assist in the prioritisation and development of future agreements as well as aiding in benchmarking current practice.
The APEC Mutual Recognition Online Workshops on Digital Credentialing of Professional and Skilled Services Providers project explores current and best practice in the use of digital credentials to support cross-border recognition of professional service practitioners. Through two webinars, workshop participants have been provided tools to assess readiness of an economy for implementing the increased use of digital credentials. An online pilot training course has been developed and is expected to be delivered over the next 12 months and beyond.
The $81.5 million Cyber Security National Workforce Growth Program is developing the cyber security skills Australia requires now, while also creating the cyber workforce pipeline we need into the future. These objectives are being achieved through multiple initiatives, including the Cyber Security Skills Partnerships Innovation Fund (the Fund).
The $70.3 million Fund supports industry and education providers to work together to promote career pathways, training, apprenticeships and internships to attract diverse people to cyber security careers. Eight successful projects have been awarded funding through Round 1 of the Program. Funding for a second round was announced under the Digital Economy Strategy in the 2021-22 Budget and is expected to open later in 2021.
The Program is also supporting growth in the pipeline of cyber security professionals through initiatives including an expansion of Questacon's science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs for school students and teachers to include cyber security.
In APEC, the Australian Government has led and funded the development of the APEC Inventory of Mutual Recognition Agreements for Professional Qualifications. Key objectives of the inventory include improving transparency of existing Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) in APEC economies and generating momentum in the region for the negotiation of further MRAs to better facilitate the mobility of more professional services providers. This Inventory is one of the world’s largest databases of MRAs and provides clear advice on existing agreements between APEC countries. MRAs which are negotiated between professional associations, accreditation bodies and regulators, streamline professional practice requirements between countries. Where MRAs are agreed it is easier for professionals to practise in each others’ jurisdictions based on their existing qualifications and licensing.
The Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (Australia-UK FTA), signed virtually on 17 December 2021, is a gold standard trade agreement. The A-UKFTA includes a number of outcomes of importance to services exporters, particularly in relation to professional services. This includes a framework for the recognition of professional qualifications between Australia and the UK and increased collaboration between UK and Australian accreditation and regulatory bodies; guarantees that Australian lawyers can advise clients and provide arbitration, mediation and conciliation services in the UK using their original qualifications and title; as well as provisions to establish and drive collaboration between regulators to address remaining barriers to practicing as a local lawyer.
The agreement also contains reciprocal commitments on temporary entry of skilled personnel that will support the bilateral advancement of professional skills, commercial interests and modern value chains. Australians entering the UK as Contractual Service Suppliers and Independent Professionals will have the same access as European Union nationals. This will provide new opportunities for our service suppliers to work in the UK on contracts for up to a year. Further information can be found at: Benefits for Service Professionals | Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (dfat.gov.au)
Australia signed a historic trade agreement with India, the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement, on 2 April 2022. As part of that agreement India agreed to implement a framework to facilitate the mutual recognition of qualifications, licensing and registration procedures between professional services bodies, to improve the two-way trade in professional services between Australia and India. Further information on outcomes for the services sector under the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement can be found at: Australia-India ECTA outcomes | Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (dfat.gov.au).