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Cross-border trade regulation – rewriting the rules

Regulatory reform does not mean no or less regulation. Regulatory reform should result in a risk-based approach to regulation, and achieve the same or enhanced public policy outcomes, whilst reducing the burden on business and government.

Working with 29 government agencies and the Deregulation Taskforce, the STS Taskforce completed a comprehensive regulatory review of Australia’s Commonwealth cross-border trade regulations. There are 200 regulations for cross-border trade in goods, the review assessed existing regulations against the four principles of good regulation:

  • justified and proportionate 
  • effective
  • efficient and minimised cost
  • user-centred and future proof.

The review identified a range of potential reform opportunities that could simplify rules and processes for traders by:

  • simplifying regulation
  • increasing alignment across government agencies
  • improving user experience
  • enhancing data collection/tracking.

Opportunity areas include increasing transparency, permits, licensing, administration of tariff concessions, payments, reporting, entity management, improving data sharing across agencies, and embedding more efficient trade processes identified through COVID-19. Effective governance arrangements for regulatory reform should be embedded. This will ensure the ease of doing business for traders and the needs of regulators remain in lockstep in our future cross-border trade environment.

Understanding systems

The STS Taskforce, working with 12 key agencies, completed a scoping study to understand the current state of trade-related ICT systems at the border. This study examined the business experience of cross-border trade Commonwealth ICT systems, how data can enhance service delivery and the adoption of modern technology, how to reduce ICT system risks, and the role of a skilled digital workforce.

The study found that the current 145 ICT cross-border trade systems suffer from lack of ongoing investment, duplicative, fragmentation, with limited interoperability and data sharing. Many ICT systems also rely on high levels of manual processing. Australian importers and exporters identified difficult to use, inflexible technology as an impediment to doing business.

The study found many of the outdated ICT systems have limited ability to exchange data effectively, reducing the ability to create a joined-up user experience, meaning that as businesses need to navigate multiple government agencies and systems to get things done! 
The review identified a range of potential reform opportunities to improve outcomes for business and government agencies, including:

  • developing and adopting a whole-of- government trade ICT architecture and trade data standard to enable a unified, connected and simplified cross-border trade environment
  • rationalising and modernising existing ICT systems to develop new digital capabilities to reduce the burden on business
  • transforming manual and paper-based processes, and moving to contemporary digital data collection methods
  • adopting innovative and emerging technologies including expanded use of cloud-based infrastructure to future proof the STS digital environment
  • ensuring the Government has a modern, agile ICT workforce to deliver the future STS.