Question Time: Trade
Mrs SUDMALIS (Gilmore) (14:17): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the Minister explain how the upcoming APEC meetings will boost jobs and growth in Australia?
Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:17): I thank the member for Gilmore for her question and I note her strong advocacy for more jobs and for economic growth in her electorate. This weekend I will travel to Manila with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Investment. We will take part in the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, known as APEC. The forum will bring together 21 member economies from around the Pacific rim to discuss trade, investment and regulatory cooperation, in the interests of promoting peace and prosperity throughout our region.
The APEC members account for 58 per cent of the world's GDP and, importantly, almost 73 per cent of Australia's trade in goods and services. The member countries include the giant economies of the United States, with whom we have a free trade agreement that was entered into by the Howard government 10 years ago, and China, Japan and Korea. The coalition government has negotiated free trade agreements with those giant economies of North Asia.
The prosperity of the Asia-Pacific nations is inextricably linked with the prosperity of our nation. This is our region. This is where we live. This is where our future lies. Australia has been highly supportive of the Philippines APEC agenda for 2015. This includes enhancing regional economic integration–the more connected we are the more opportunities there are for Australian jobs–and fostering the participation of small and medium businesses and enterprises in regional and global markets. We know that small businesses make up 97 per cent of all businesses in Australia. We are also focusing on investing in education, skills and training across the region. Each of these elements helps create a positive environment for Australian businesses to expand their presence into these huge markets and to make more profitable investments–and, therefore, will lead to more Australian jobs.
Australia is also leading APEC's work across a range of areas that will assist major industry, small and medium enterprises. We are strengthening regional trade and investment in mining equipment, in technology services. We are promoting training in the transport and logistics sector. We are addressing barriers to e-commerce, particularly for small businesses in the region.
We also recognise the need to address gender imbalances in Australia and throughout the Asia-Pacific. We are focusing our attention on helping small to medium enterprises that are operated by women to better connect to export markets and this will be a feature of our work.
The growth of the Asia-Pacific is critical for Australia's economic growth and for our stability. The government is committed to creating the best environment possible for our industries to flourish. This is all part of our positive agenda to create more jobs for Australians, to create more economic growth.