Farm and business backing for unified Australian export brand

Tha Land, Colin Bettles 28 Nov 2017

FARMERS and business leaders including agricultural and mining entrepreneur Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest have backed a fresh move to try to introduce a unified brand for Australian exports.

The new marketing push was unveiled in the Turnbull Coalition government’s recently released Foreign Policy White Paper.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said the commitment to develop a unified brand, made in the broad ranging government policy document, resulted from business and industry raising the importance of doing it, during the consultation process.

“A unified brand will bring together Australia’s export strengths – such as tourism, agricultural products and education – under the one Australian banner,” he said.

“It will be a powerful symbol for our goods and services to use on the world stage.”

The White Paper said the government was “committed to marketing our commercial, educational and cultural credentials”.

“We will develop a stronger nation brand that reinforces our reputation as an internationally competitive investment destination, a great place to visit, a quality provider of education and a trusted exporter of premium quality goods and services,” it said.

“This will complement our broader trade and investment policies and add impetus to our major economic partnerships.”

Mr Ciobo said the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, Austrade, had already begun a stocktake of existing Australian brands.

“Australia’s clean and green reputation is already a strong selling point that is well recognised in key export markets such as China,” he said.

“Research conducted by Austrade has found that, while Australia is known for unique flora and fauna, beautiful scenery and friendly people, we are less recognised for harder attributes, such as technology, innovation and science, which make Australia even more attractive as a potential trade or investment partner.

“A clear, unified national brand that combines these and other qualities will provide the support our industries need to thrive in a competitive global marketplace.”

The National Farmers’ Federation CEO Tony Mahar said his peak national lobby group supported efforts to further develop and coordinate Australia’s high quality safe produce in the global market.

“Australia agriculture is an export dependent industry,” he said.

“Our farmers compete in a highly price sensitive world market against highly subsidised counterparts so a coordinated and comprehensive approach is something we are keen to explore.

“Any additional to support our farm exports to expand market share and value is welcomed by the NFF on behalf of Australian farmers.

“We congratulate Minister Ciobo on bringing this recommendation from the Foreign Policy White Paper to fruition.”

NFF has previously backed the use of the “True Aussie” brand logo developed by Meat and Livestock Australia that’s already used for marketing in major export markets like the US, China, Europe and Japan.

Mr Forest – through the ASA100 group that involves agribusiness industry leaders from both China and Australia seeking to enhance farm exporting outcomes on top of tariff cuts delivered the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement – also welcomed the Foreign White Paper’s commitment to test a unified brand.

ASA100 Co-chairs, Mr Forrest and Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott, said their group had worked closely with Mr Ciobo for more than a year, on the need for an opt-in logo under which to export Australia’s pristine food and wine.

“We don’t mind what the brand is so long as it is what draws the Chinese consumers away from the products of our competitors, in the supermarket or online, to our Australian products,” Mr Forrest said.

“We can’t compete on price and volume but we can trump all other countries on having a reputation of being clean, green and safe,

“This will be a game changer for Australia’s ageing agriculture sector and one that will have a significant, and immediate, impact on our economy.”

A statement from the two business leaders said the ASA100 brand would be one of three brands tested in China and across other important export markets.

Ms Westacott said Chinese food demand was projected to double by 2050 – reaching $1 trillion – underpinned by rising middle class incomes and increasing urbanization.

“We know that the Chinese value our products because they trust the origin to be clean and safe but our branding has been confused and fragmented,” she said.

“Now we have a chance to demonstrate the power and consumer pull of one strong unified brand.”

ASA100 said it was also working with the CSIRO on ensuring a unified brand was underpinned by the world’s best practice in anti-food fraud and traceability technology.

Australia Chamber of Commerce CEO James Pearson said the well-known Australian Made, Australian Grown logo had been identifying Australian goods in export markets for more than 30 years and it was important to gain leverage from them.

Mr Pearson said nearly 3000 businesses currently used the logo on more than 20,000 products sold around the world.

“It is important we leverage the equity from the popular green and gold kangaroo logo, which has come to symbolise our clean, green, high-quality products,” he said.

Foreign White Paper farm focus

The White Paper released last week by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also spoke about creating new opportunities through bilateral FTAs for major exporting sector like agriculture.

It said Australia had FTAs with ASEAN and nine individual countries (Chile, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and the United States), which together account for 64 per cent of our total trade.

But to open new opportunities for Australia, the government would “expand our network of agreements to ensure that by 2020 we have FTAs with countries that account for over 80 per cent of our trade”.

“Our immediate priority is concluding the Indonesia – Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership,” it said.

“This agreement will strengthen commercial links and help stimulate increased two-way investment.

“Both governments want this agreement to unlock future growth opportunities for Australia and Indonesia.

“The Government will negotiate an ambitious FTA with the European Union, the world’s second-largest economy as a bloc.

“Australia will also negotiate a comprehensive FTA with the United Kingdom once it has left the European Union.

“These prospective FTAs will advance our commercial interests, especially in investment, services and agriculture.

“They will also signal the commitment of Australia, the European Union and the United Kingdom to a strong global trading system.”

The White Paper also referred to current and future opportunities driven by climate change, to export local “sustainable” agricultural production expertise to food insecure countries in the region.

“As the world’s population grows, demand for food, energy and water will continue to rise,” it said.

“These pressures, compounded by climate change, will strain the world’s resources in a way that could limit future prosperity and contribute to conflict and population displacement.

“In addition to supplying agricultural products to global markets, Australia also supports basic food security and efficient water management internationally.

“In 2017–18, 9 per cent of Australia’s development assistance, or $339.5 million, was invested in the agriculture, fisheries and water sectors.

“The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research has extensive research partnerships and implements practical applied projects and training to improve food security in our region.

“Climate change will sometimes impede economic development, drive additional displacement of people and, if left unchecked, add to global stresses on the supply of food and water.

“Many countries in Australia’s immediate region, especially small island states and those with large delta cities, will be increasingly affected.”