Senator Linda Reynolds, Federal Assistant Minister for Home Affairs, discusses the Australian Trusted Trader initiative and how it can help logistics businesses smarten up their supply chain as well as gain reputational and commercial benefits.
According to Austrade, Australia is now in its 26th year of consecutive annual economic growth. Australia boasts the 13th largest economy, and is forecast to realise average annual real GDP growth of 2.9 per cent of the next five years.
In 2018, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that Australia recorded a $2.2 billion trade surplus, which is the highest ever for a calendar year. The country’s two-way trade in goods and services also hit a record high of $854 billion in 2018.
Australia’s demonstrated economic resilience, adaptability and record of steady growth is underpinned by its ability to import and export goods safely and in a low-risk environment, says Assistant Minister Linda Reynolds, Federal Assistant Minister for Home Affairs.
Australian Trusted Trader (ATT) is a program co-designed by industry and the Australian Government in response to the increasing volumes of freight crossing the Australian border. It is free to join for businesses small and large.
“This program has been initiated to do a number of things. Firstly, facilitate the movement of trade across our borders. The people who the Government has a degree of trust in can get their imports and exports approved far quicker with this accreditation. So, it gives a much faster and efficient service,” Assistant Minister Reynolds says.
Assistant Minister Reynolds says that as supply chains are becoming increasingly complex and as the country faces ever increasing border threats, this initiative allows the Australian Border Force (ABF) to focus on high-risk, unknown or illegitimate traders rather than the law-abiding businesses. “It frees up our officers to concentrate on those whom we may want to more closely exam,” Assistant Minister Reynolds says.
“ATT was designed to keep Australian businesses competitive in international markets through streamlined customs processes, while enabling ABF officers to focus on other goods and traders that are unknown or pose a greater risk to Australia,” the Minister says.
Currently there are over 300 businesses accredited with Australian Trusted Trader status, with many logistics providers included in this list. For Assistant Minister Reynolds, there are a number of added benefits for businesses to become accredited by this initiative beyond efficiencies and time savings.
She believes that being accredited also demonstrates to international customers the business’ own government believe that they are a reputable company, which has huge reputational and commercial benefits.
In addition, the Australian Government has signed Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRAs) with Canada, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Taiwan, Korea and Singapore, and is currently progressing negotiations with the US, Japan and Thailand. As well as being one of 77 Authorized Economic Operator programs recognised by the World Customs Organization.
According to Assistant Minister Reynolds, when businesses become accredited they are also presented with a rare opportunity to thoroughly assess their supply chain.
“Quite often businesses who have applied for the Australian Trusted Trader program do more work on the integrity of their supply chain overseas to minimise any risk. This has been a great benefit because there are many issues around slavery overseas. In order to become accredited, you need to demonstrate that you have a very robust supply chain,” she says.
This program has enabled industry, the ABF and the Government to work closer together. “Being accredited gives businesses access to a dedicated ABF account manager. This is a first point of contact with someone who they know and who knows their business,” Assistant Minister Reynolds says.
It also gives businesses a seat at the table to work with government and border control to improve processes.
“A lot of the feedback I have had from businesses is very positive on the relationship side of things. Many of the businesses tell me that a lot of the issues they wanted improved have been actioned as a result of this relationship,” she says.
Another area the Minister is particularly proud of is the recent updates to the program in terms of the process for businesses to apply. “I am very pleased that the ABF and the Department of Home Affairs have worked closely together to streamline the process, which cumbersome to begin with,” she says.
To be eligible for ATT, a business needs to have a two-year trading history, an Australian Business Number (ABN) and be financially solvent.
Importers, exporters, brokers, and freight forwarders involved in the movement of physical goods across the border are all eligible and Assistant Minister Reynolds urges all businesses, large and small, to apply.
“If businesses have the relevant information and accounts in good order it can take as little as an hour to complete the application form online and then the ABF will visit the business and validate the information that has been provided,” she says.
For Assistant Minister Reynolds, there are great benefits for smaller businesses too. She recalls the 300th accredited business was a small business based in Perth with only 12 employees.
“Small businesses are time and resource poor, so this accreditation allows them to get their goods over the border quickly and with less expense,” she says.
This accreditation is part of a broader trade modernisation program that Assistant Minister Reynolds is responsible for. “I think international trade is changing globally, and very quickly. We have to do things faster, cheaper and with more risks. Any reduction in red tape is a good thing. With this initiative, we want to make sure that we match the processes elsewhere in the world and keep up with the pace of change to keep Australia a global business leader,” Assistant Minister Reynolds says.