There’s no secret Australia’s fresh produce is regarded – rightfully so – as some of the best in the world. After attending the 2017 Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong earlier this year, it is abundantly clear that produce from all corners of our island home is in high-demand across the globe. Unsurprisingly, it is our northern neighbours who have truly grown to love and champion our high-quality horticultural offerings.
With freshness and quality being a vital marketing component for Australia’s fruit and vegetables, the ‘picking-to-plate’ timing of our exports has become a priority for exporters. Despite significant regulatory barriers in our export markets, Australian growers have enthusiastically met this booming regional demand, reflected recently by a clear growth in out-bound horticultural trade.
Given the complexities and differences in export market entry requirements, how can Australian exporters ensure that produce is presented at the highest quality in market? How can they strive towards optimising speed-to-market and avoid undue delays or barriers imposed by foreign governments?
Enter the Australian Trusted Trader programme – launched in mid-2015. The programme is an Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) programme that rewards compliant traders by reducing regulatory red tape and providing benefits relating to prioritised trade and border services. AEO programmes are voluntary trade facilitation initiatives utilised by almost all developed trading nations, including China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, the US and the EU.
While there are a range of trade benefits under the programme, a key benefit for exporting businesses are Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRA) with our major trading partners. An MRA is essentially an inter-government agreement with another AEO country that allows Australian Trusted Traders to access the benefits afforded by that country’s systems.
These arrangements provide Australian businesses with faster, better and more assured access to international markets through ‘equivalent’ trusted status under the government of the countries with MRAs. Australia currently has MRAs with New Zealand, South Korea, Canada, Hong Kong, and recently China. However, with our other major trading partners having established AEO programmes, we can expect MRAs to be concluded with those governments in the near future.
In practice, this means that Australian Trusted Traders trading into China should have access to China’s AEO benefits, including lower examination rates at the border, priority handling of customs clearance formalities and ‘out-of-hours’ clearance services, and priority in trade formalities such as document modification, reporting and verification.
Additionally, China’s recently implemented Autonomous Clearance Mode (ACM), which aims to reduce in-country trade processes and streamline cross-border trade, will be available to Australian Trusted Traders. In effect, this will create a significantly enhanced ‘green lane’ for Australian Trusted Traders and exempt them from standard procedures whereby officers would examine documentation and undertake a detailed process to ensure information on the declaration is accurate.
On this basis, an Australian Trusted Trader should receive faster, better and more consistent market entry services than a non-accredited trader. In an industry where freshness and speed-to-market is paramount, the benefits of this prioritised treatment should be clear.
The implementation of the Australian Trusted Trader programme and the conclusion of our MRAs is a fantastic move towards unlocking the full potential of Australia’s horticultural exports. By allowing our growers to present their produce to the international dining table as quickly and freshly as possible we can truly showcase the beauty of our land’s products.