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Building trade markets

THE iron ore, nickel, gold and oil and gas sectors made significant contributions to the positive mood in resources, with booming commodity prices and many junior resource players reaping the benefits.

WA farmers, who had started to feel cautiously optimistic following the breaking of the drought, are now watching the Australian dollar with increasing concern.

But despite the difficulties faced by exporters in 2003 – drought, the Iraq war, concerns over SARS, the threat of terrorism and the rising Australian dollar – an Australian Trade Commission report released in the past month revealed a positive outlook for 2004 among the majority of exporters.

According to a joint study by Austrade and DHL, 60 per cent of Australian companies are confident there will be an increase in export orders next year.

Results of the Export Barometer survey released this month, which surveyed a random sample of 318 companies across a range of issues, showed that the Iraq war, terrorism and SARS have done little to dampen the long-term outlook of Australian exporters.

“After such a hard year with SARS, Iraq, terrorism and a slow global economy, exporters across all industries are relatively optimistic,” Austrade chief economist Tim Harcourt said.

“This is good news for Australia, particularly when the Reserve Bank has predicted an upturn in the global economy – particularly in the US and Asia – in 2004.”

However, Mr Harcourt said the rising Australian dollar was influential.

“The strong dollar is having an effect, but those industries that are the most affected by a rising exchange rate know what measures they can take,” he said.

Small and medium exporters remain very concerned over the Australian dollar reaching new heights, however, with reports filtering through that short-term viability in certain markets could be threatened, such as the US, should the rise continue.

But this hasn’t stopped efforts by the Federal Government to coax more small and medium companies into export markets.

The Government claims it is well on its way to doubling the number of exporters by 2006, with WA pulling its weight in comparison to other States.

WA State manager for Austrade Jenny Matthews said the Australian Trade Commission was currently assisting up to 400 companies, in conjunction with the State Government.

And WA was punching well above its weight in terms of new exporters, she said.

“There is a strong export mentality here in WA,” Ms Matthews said.

“Of all the States, proportionately, WA is leading the way in terms of making the first sale.”

Ms Matthews said exporters, with the assistance of Austrade, had become more creative in approaching international markets due to the difficulties in the trade environment in 2003.

Austrade has assisted companies through video link ups and by putting products on the plane, instead of people, to participate in trade shows.

“We help them to get export ready, help to select the right market, help to identify opportunities, buyers and customers in that market,” Ms Matthews told WA Business News.

Exports from WA amount to more than $30 billion annually.

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