Good evening ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here in my capacity as Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs. This is my first major public engagement in my new role. And, as I am the first Minister in some time to have Customs explicitly outlined in my Portfolio, it's fitting that my first major speaking engagement is with Australia's trusted traders in support of one of the Government's key trade facilitation programs.
The increasing flow of goods across our border is critical to Australia's prosperity, security and unity; and I am pleased to see so many successfully accredited Trusted Traders here this evening.
When my predecessor the Honourable Angus Taylor — the then Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security — addressed this Symposium last year, there were only 200 or so fully accredited Trusted Traders. We are now well on our way to 500 Trusted Traders — a testament to the growing appeal of this program. This includes from my own electorate of La Trobe, Boge Compressors Australia, who will be receiving their Australian Trusted Trader Globe tonight.
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Australia has a long and highly distinguished history as a trading nation.
However, in recent times Australia's trading environment — much like those managed by the customs and border protection authorities around the rest of the developed world — has faced a series of unprecedented challenges.
The threats we face at the border are constantly evolving and have become ever-more sophisticated; with actors often utilising highly innovative means to conceal their criminal enterprises and evade detection.
This is further complicated by the current surge in trade volume growth.
Last financial year, the ABF processed more than 50 million air cargo consignments — representing a 19 per cent increase in air cargo consignments on the previous financial year — and more than 3.3 million sea cargo manifests.
The Australian Border Force conducted more than 93,000 inspections in the process — an increase of 11 per cent on the previous year.
This trend toward increasing volumes isn't predicted to slow in the foreseeable future.
Over the next four years, we anticipate a 34 per cent increase in the number of air cargo imports, and a further 13 per cent increase in imports by sea.
International trade volumes are projected to double in the next 15 years to 2033.
In addition, the diversification of supply chains, greater use of transhipment hubs, and sudden and unpredictable market changes — such as the imposition of retaliatory tariffs by trading nations — further complicates matters.
In response to such challenges, the Australian Government — through the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force — is placing a great deal of effort into our trade modernisation agenda.
A cornerstone of this agenda, is — as you all know as highly valued participants — the Australian Trusted Trader program which commenced in 2016.
As one of 77 Authorised Economic Operator programs around the world, Australian Trusted Trader aligns with the World Customs Organisation guidelines for secure supply chains and trade compliance practices.
It also aligns with the global standards set under the World Customs Organisation SAFE Framework, and the Australian Trusted Trader Rule under the Customs Act.
Trusted Trader allows us to preserve Australia's proud trading legacy, and propels us into a future of new economic opportunities. It also demonstrates the mutual benefits we can obtain through Government-industry partnerships.
The program has fundamentally changed the way we work with our international trading partners to manage the movement of goods across our border.
Research shows that Trusted Traders save an average of 150 inspection hours each — ensuring that their goods got to market faster than those operating outside of the program.
In an enforcement context, Trusted Traders represent the lowest risk entities in trade — being subject to an accreditation process and ongoing compliance measures —and they enable the ABF to focus their attention on those who present a higher or unknown risk. The program has also helped to empower our Trusted Traders with a heightened capacity to recognise and respond to supply chain risk.
Anecdotally, and as a former Law Enforcement Officer myself I find this particularly interesting, we have found that Border Watch referrals provided by our Trusted Traders tend to result in more positive finds.
The Trusted Traders in this room represent a national security asset to Australia.
The Australian Trusted Trader program also complements the ABF's work to influence the World Customs Organization's standards to strengthen supply chain security globally.
Our strong relationships with our international trading partners has meant that we have been able to develop a growing number of Mutual Recognition Arrangements with other international trading economies. These MRAs provide Trusted Traders with unprecedented access to trade facilitation benefits and increases their access to global markets.
Trusted Traders currently have access to seven MRAs — streamlining the clearance of goods at the border with Canada, the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and Singapore.
Mutual Recognition promotes end-to-end supply chain security based on program membership. So congratulations — as an Australian Trusted Trader your ongoing compliance and accreditation secure your position as one of the most trusted members of the international trading community.
Mutual Recognition Arrangements are expected to save Australians approximately $2.8 billion over the next 10 years.
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The continued growth of Australian Trusted Trader is integral to the Australian Government's trade modernisation agenda. Trusted Trader secures international trade supply chains, further facilitates trade, and offers a trusted environment to test and trial new trade modernisation initiatives.
Trade modernisation is about advancing Australia's economic competitiveness and trade interests by reforming border management to better connect Australia to the 21st century global economy.
Australian Trusted Trader further modernises Australia's border management practices and is a tangible demonstration of Government efforts towards innovation and best practice regulation.
The Department of Home Affairs is leading the development of Australia's trade modernisation agenda, which aims to create a future international trade system for Australia that is digital, seamless, automated and secure.
Australia's current trade regulatory environment is complex; it involves more than 30 different regulatory agencies, 200 pieces of legislation, and there are more than 51,000 Australian businesses involved in international trade. Trade modernisation will include a long-term multi-phased approach with initiatives to enhance Australia's competitiveness and bring Australia's trade system in line with key trade partners — and perhaps more importantly — our international competitors.
It will strengthen the facilitation of legitimate cargo and goods, while making it harder for transnational and serious organised criminals — along with other threats to our national security — to penetrate our networks, in particular the supply chains of genuine traders.
Trade modernisation will be co-designed, tested and funded with industry; and will improve information sharing across government, between government and business and between government and industry.
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Ladies and gentlemen, once again, thank you for having me here this evening; and for your ongoing engagement with the Trusted Trader program.
Thank you, and enjoy the remainder of your evening.