By Patrick McCarthy >>

TURN ON THE NEWS, and the controversy is scarcely avoidable: Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on tariffs.

Proponents say they’re a necessary corrective to existing policies that, by protecting markets in one country, unfairly harm those in another. Opponents say that, even as a countermeasure, tariffs worsen the problem they purport to solve, by raising prices, hobbling industry and destroying jobs.

In one of the most famous examples, the United States in 1930 raised tariffs on 20,000 imported goods, triggering retaliatory duties from other countries. In the ensuing trade war, US exports and imports fell by more than half, exacerbating the Great Depression. 

This year, the US implemented tariffs on thousands of imported goods from China, triggering an immediate retaliation with taxes implemented against a similar amount of imports from the US.

Although Australia is exempt from these tariffs, it threatens Australia’s role in the supply chain for those imports while presenting significant volatility in global trade policy. Local businesses with global operations must assess their supply chains and develop strategies to ensure they can be nimble to further political disruption. 

With the advent of digital procurement networks, businesses can soften the financial blow associated with tariffs — and sometimes avoid it altogether. By opening up visibility into the interconnected operations of millions of buyers and suppliers, digital networks enable businesses to anticipate bottlenecks in the supply chain — whether caused by tariffs, weather, labour unrest or even war — and work around them long before they dent an income statement.

This newfound transparency also helps to gauge other risk factors ranging from financial and operational to legal and reputational. Aided by artificial intelligence, cloud-based networks help businesses to assemble — and, when necessary, reassemble — the most efficient, cost-effective, risk-managed supply chain possible out of countless permutations and combinations.

In many cases, a digital network can help to navigate a trade barrier by proposing alternate sources that satisfy all of a business’ requirements yet may have been previously unknown.

While certain direct materials, such as the rare-earth metals used to manufacture smartphones, originate almost exclusively from a particular part of the world, most derive from multiple sources and benefit from cross-border competition. By providing access to alternate sources, digital networks effectively lower the barriers imposed by tariffs — barriers that many businesses of an earlier era would have found insurmountable.

At a time when trade wars can gather pace almost as suddenly as a typhoon or tornado, businesses need to ensure their supply chain remains nimble ahead of any eventuality.

Only a cloud-based procurement network can draw meaningful, instantaneous insights out of the sprawling troves of operational data that trading partners rely on to forecast shifts in the supply chain.

In fact, digital networks extend the competitive advantage of their participants amid times of relative tension or calm in global trade. That’s because tariffs, while challenging for policymakers and procurement professionals alike, are temporary.

The uncertainty they evoke, just as other risk factors do, is ever-present. Managing that uncertainty is where procurement leaders lend greatest expertise to their organisations.


Patrick McCarthy is senior vice president and general manager of SAP Ariba, regarded as the world’s largest business network, linking together buyers and suppliers from 3.4 million companies in 190 countries.

QUEENSLAND resources have helped underwrite record trade figures for Australia, including upticks in the export earnings for both coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the record high value for coal exports of $60.1 billion showed the ongoing importance of resources for all Australians. 

ABS figures for 2017-18 released this week show a substantial increase in exports of metallurgical coal, thermal coal and LNG.

“Queensland has a track record of making the best use of our resources for local communities and to the benefit of all Queenslanders,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“When our resource commodities are sold overseas, they bring back valuable royalties that help build roads, schools and hospitals everywhere from Cairns to the Gold Coast.

“These trade earnings reinforce the dollar value of our coal and gas exports. This is more good news for our resources sector on top of the figures released last month by the Office of the Chief Economist which show ongoing strength in the export market for our commodities, including a forecast that the value of coal exports would overtake iron ore during the current financial year," he said.

“Every Queenslander should welcome these outstanding figures. They’re the direct result of the hard work of the 280,000 Queenslanders who work in or with the resources sector and they’re a direct benefit to all five million Queenslanders.”

Coal royalties reached a record $3.768 billion in this year’s Queensland Budget. The resources sector generates one in every six dollars for the Queensland economy and creates one in every eight jobs, according to QRC figures.

Mr Macfarlane said the Queensland resources industry generated almost 80 percdent - or $60 billion – of Queensland's exports.

"The sector’s recent growth has ensured the Palaszczuk Government is on target for achieving its Trade and Investment Strategy 2017-2022 goal of a 22 percent share of the nation’s export revenue," he said.

“Thanks to the resources sector contribution of eight in every $10 of Queensland’s export earnings, the State is delivering 23 percent of Australia’s exports. \

"Without the resources sector, Queensland would provide only 10 percent of the national share,” Mr Macfarlane said.


THE Australian Made Campaign (AMCL) has affected a high profile bust against counterfeiters, after the Australian Border Force seized a consignment of pianos – travelling to and from China – falsely claiming to be Australian Made.

The container of pianos arrived at the Port of Brisbane on June 2 from China and on June 5 AMCL received notice that Border Force Queensland had successfully intercepted 10 pianos.

The pianos carried a number of logos and stamps claiming to be ‘Made in Australia’ or ‘Designed and Assembled in Australia’ with one closely replicating the iconic green-and-gold Australian Made logo. 

Border Force officials said the imported pianos were to be transhipped back to China, presumably so retailers involved could provide documentation showing that they were from, or made, in Australia.

During the process, the importer applied to Border Force to have the seized instruments released.

AMCL chief executive Ian Harrison said, as part of their claim, the importers provided evidence they had registered a ‘copycat’ Australian Made logo as a Class 15 trademark in China, in a bid to further con consumers.

“We discovered the logo they trademarked was not even the logo used on the imported pianos  – it was a direct copy of our trusted Australian Made logo,” Mr Harrison said.

Mr Harrison said Australia’s excellent reputation for producing quality products and produce made certified Australian Made goods a target for cheats and counterfeiters. 

“AMCL condemns the use of country-of-origin claims that are intended to mislead and confuse consumers, particularly when those claims involve unauthorised use of the Australian Made logo,” Mr Harrison said.

“Fraudulent manufactures like this one have clear agendas: to swindle consumers. This was a clear cut situation whereby the manufacturer’s intention was to build dubious-quality pianos in China to pass off as premium Australian Made products to sell back to Chinese consumers.

“They put the bogus Australian Made logos on them to further deceive potential buyers then shipped the instruments to Australia and back again in attempt to have appropriate paperwork in attempt to prove they came from here.”

Mr Harrison applauded the efforts of Border Force officials for “yet another successful interception of counterfeit products”.

The importer has since contacted Border Force to rescind its claim for release of the goods – meaning the pianos will be destroyed.

AMCL is investigating what legal action can be taken to challenge the company’s trademark in China.

Earlier this year, AMCL’s action against a chain of misleading websites selling Chinese ugg boots as Australian made, resulted in the cancellation the company’s domain names and take-down of all its websites.

Mr Harrison said AMCL would continue to work with key bodies such as Border Force and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to enforce clear and accurate country-of-origin branding for products.

AMCL is a not-for-profit public company that administers and promotes the Australian Made, Australian logo, established by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and the network of state and territory chambers of commerce, with the cooperation of the Federal Government.


AUSTRALIAN computer vision technology innovator, Seeing Machines, is making an impact globally, especially in the area of driver monitoring and safety.

Founded in 2000 as part of an association with Australian National University, Seeing Machines today is at the forefront of driver monitoring technology and has more than 200 staff and operations worldwide including the US, the UK, South America, Europe and across South East Asia. 

“Our solution enables machines to see, understand and assist people – we’re considered a world-leader in computer vision technology,” Seeing Machines chief financial officer James Palmer said. 

“The primary application is driver monitoring systems, and it basically monitors driver attention for drowsiness and distraction using face recognition and eye-tracking. The aim is to reduce accidents and help save lives.”

The first real opportunity to commercialise the Seeing Machines technology came in 2007 as a result of the resources boom. Seeing Machines technology was originally used in heavy mining vehicles in Australia to monitor shift workers and reduce accidents and incidents.

It was in this resource-boom period that the organisation started exporting, taking advantage of opportunities in overseas markets which were also benefiting from growth in the mining sector.

This resulted in an exclusive global partnership with Caterpillar in 2015, through a licensing agreement, which has enabled Seeing Machines to expand its capabilities into other transport areas and expand its footprint globally.

“In 2016 our attention turned to taking the product and making it work for coaches and commercial fleets,” Mr Palmer said. “That led to the birth of our fleet business.

“Our products had to be retro-fitted to suit the needs of lighter, less rugged vehicles and we also looked at applications for the automotive sector.” 

Working as part of a supply chain, Seeing Machines has built relationships with a range of corporates that sell bundled solutions to automotive companies. Seeing Machines’ FOVIO software was launched in September 2017 in the General Motors CT6 Cadillac.

“It’s the first car to have ‘level two’ autonomous driving that monitors the driver during hands-free driving to ensure that the driver can take over when conditions change,” Mr Palmer said.

“We are also working to deliver the technology to other automotive brands. The lead times are huge so we will only see the next vehicles with our driver monitoring technology roll off the production lines from 2021.”


In 2017, Seeing Machines experienced a growing demand for its expanded range of solutions, winning business from the reputation of its market-leading technologies.

The executive team recognised the business was evolving from what was effectively a technology start-up to a more mature business. There grew a rapid need to scale for greater manufacturing volumes and dealing with multiple overseas suppliers.

One of the key opportunities that the organisation was looking at was a landmark contract with Thai-based distributor, Kiattana Transport, in the fleet business. Seeing Machines won a contract to deliver 8,000 units of its Guardian driver monitoring units and needed working capital to manage manufacturing and delivery by June 2018.

Mr Palmer said the company explored opportunities with their own bank and also several others.

“Their answer to us was always that we were a little too early stage for them,” Mr Palmer said. “And in fact, one of the banks we were talking to did suggest Efic as an option. 

“Efic really took the time to understand our business and to model the cashflow that worked with our distributors. In fact, some of the modelling we did as part of the due diligence actually helped us think through some of our cashflow planning,” Mr Palmer said.

In September 2017, Seeing Machine was able to access a US$2 million export line of credit facility. This was seen as the first step to expand the relationship with Kiattana Transport and increase the export capacity of the business.

“Kiattana is very passionate about our products and we are also working closely with them on the monitoring component of our service,” Mr Palmer said.

“Without Efic’s help, delivering on that contract would have given us real headaches in terms of being able to manage the working capital requirements.

“This is the first time this company has ever had any debt, because we’ve always been a start-up. It’s a sign of a company maturing when they need to access facilities like the one from Efic.”

He said with first-mover advantage in both fleet and automotive markets, the company was looking at some exciting growth opportunities in international markets.

Always the innovator, Seeing Machines is also looking to grow into additional transport sectors and have teams developing future solutions for rail and aviation.

Efic is the Australian Government’s export credit agency, helping Australian businesses to access export finance when their banks may be unable to assist.


AUSTRALIAN Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, has predicted 2018 will be a year of strong growth for small business exporters.

Ms Carnell said Australia’s International Business Survey 2017 showed there was greater confidence among Australian businesses that are already exporting. 

Ms Carnell said the 2017 Australian Export Awards showcased some great examples, including small business category winner, Tooletries, founded in Brisbane by brothers Josh and Saul Cockburn.

Funded by private capital and a Kickstarter campaign, Tooletries designs and manufactures bathroom accessories such as mirrors, toothbrush and razor holders and wall organisers that can be fixed to vertical surfaces utilising the company’s patented silicone technology.

The company’s products are stocked in more than 1500 retail stores and supermarkets across the US, and are available in Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and the UK.

Exports made up 100 percent of Tooletries’ sales revenue in 2016–17.

In agriculture and wholesaling, two thirds of businesses believe the outlook is better than the previous two years, Ms Carnell said.

The report identified China, the United States and United Kingdom as being markets where strong revenue growth would occur.

Commissioned by the Export Council of Australia – with support from Austrade, Australian export finance organisation Efic and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) – Australia’s International Business Survey 2017 collected the opinions of 941 firms from 19 sectors undertaking international activities in more than 90 overseas markets.  

“Australia is seeing increased growth in exports and small businesses are leading the way,” Ms Carnell said.

“Nearly 88 percent of Australian exporters are small-to-medium enterprises.

“An increasing number of firms are ‘born global’, which means they’re exporting at the very beginning.”

Ms Carnell said the survey findings matched Efic’s exporter sentiment index from August last year, which showed two thirds of respondents expected future sales revenue to increase.

“Potential exporters need to know there is support available from Austrade and Efic to research their markets, make connections and obtain finance,” Ms Carnell said.

“Over the past three years, Efic has worked with more than 262 small businesses and provided more than $350 million in financial support.

“Efic is the Australian Government’s export credit agency; it operates on a commercial basis and partners with banks.

“It’s a model I believe should also be looked at for small business finance more broadly.”

The survey showed just over one third of respondents had applied for finance and almost 40 percent of these were unsuccessful.

Ms Carnell said this illustrated the challenge for small businesses to obtain capital from traditional banks, which require property as security.

“It’s great that more entrepreneurs are getting started with exports, but rapidly growing small businesses need sources of finance that don’t require putting the family home on the line,” she said.

In the survey, small exporters are regarded as those with fewer than 20 employees and annual turnover less than $2million, with exports of less than $2m during the reference period. Large exporters are those with 200 or more employees, or annual turnover of $20million or more, with exports of $20million or more during the reference period. Medium exporters are all businesses other than those defined as small or large.






















Total Goods Exporters




*Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics.


AUSTRALIAN film production capability has been showcased in China during a delegation visit to discuss opportunities for joint projects.

The mission in mid-June to Beijing and Shanghai aimed to generate sales for Australian filmmakers, identify leads for potential TV and film projects to bring to Australia and influence the development of early stage projects through partnerships and co-productions.

This follows the Australian Government’s recent announcement of a $140 million Location Incentive by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, to "attract more international blockbusters" for production in Australia, helping to grow the local industry.

"The incentive, delivered over four years, is estimated to bring in over $260 million per year in new foreign investment to the Australian economy and create more than 3,000 jobs annually for our talented cast and crew," Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said.

"Australia’s screen production industry is recognised globally for its creativity, experienced production companies and sophisticated film making infrastructure," he said. "As a film location, Australia offers a wide variety of talent, scenic locations and quality studio facilities, all supported by government incentives.

"China produces hundreds of feature films each year, has tens of thousands of cinemas and television audiences of hundreds of millions, therefore Australia’s official co-production agreement provides great opportunities for our highly skilled film industry."

The Australia-China Film Industry Exchange, organised by Screen Australia and Ausfilm in partnership with Austrade, featured a series of business roundtables and networking opportunities to strengthen engagement between Australian and Chinese film makers.

Delegates include leaders from state government film and television agencies and se

www.screen representatives from Australia’s film production industry, including visual effects, post production and sound production.


THE second edition of the Australian Military Sales Catalogue was released this week to promote the products and services produced by Australia’s defence industry internationally.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said the first catalogue launched in 2017 had been successful for the companies involved. The second edition features 69 companies manufacturing defence products and providing services to the sector. 

“The Australian Military Sales is an important initiative for us to showcase the vast range of products and services the Australian defence industry can export to our friends and allies to boost their capability,” Mr Pyne said. 

The catalogue lists Australian Defence Force (ADF) equipment featuring a demonstrated viable capability that other countries might seek to purchase.

“It supports our Smart Buyer approach to the acquisition, sustainment and disposal of ADF capability by working more closely with industry,” Mr Pyne said.

“This year’s catalogue has been expanded to include products and services from 69 Australian defence companies – including small and medium enterprises, and companies located across the country including from regional Australia.

“As Minister for Defence Industry, I am constantly reminded of the enormous ability, skill and determination of our Australian defence industry. The Turnbull Government is supporting them in a number of ways including through the Defence Export Strategy I announced with the Prime Minister on 29 January 2018.

“This catalogue is another way for the government to help Australia’s Defence Industry reach the markets of our friends and allies,” Mr Pyne said.

The transfer of ex-ADF equipment to foreign governments is subject to a “rigorous” approval process independent from the Australian Military Sales Office, Mr Pyne said.


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