The Australian Trade and Investment Commission, or Austrade, is the Australian Government's trade, investment and education promotion agency. It is a statutory agency within the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio, with offices in overseas embassies and consulates, and representative arrangements in some other locations.
Under Austrade's corporate structure, its chief executive officer is accountable to the federal Minister for Trade and Investment.
Through a global network of offices, Austrade aims to assist Australian companies to connect with buyers in offshore markets, attract foreign direct investment into Australia, and promote Australia's education sector internationally."Annual Report 2011–12". Australian Trade and Investment Commission. Commonwealth of Australia. 2012. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
In Australia, Austrade's services and programs are delivered through a national network of offices and TradeStart locations in metropolitan and regional areas, operating in partnership with Australian state and territory governments, industry associations and regional development bodies.
Austrade provides advice to exporters on prospective markets and opportunities; on-the-ground support in target countries; trade exhibitions; and assistance in finding potential investors. No charge is made for general information, though fees may be required for specific tailored advice.
Austrade provides information and advice to assist Australian companies in exporting goods and services to markets including Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Russia. For Australian exporters and education providers, Austrade has a comprehensive mix of information and customised services to assist doing business within overseas markets and to understand foreign regulations and business practices.
Austrade is responsible for the promotion, attraction and facilitation of productive foreign direct investment (FDI) into Australia, and is the first national point of contact for all investment enquiries. Services to international companies are free, comprehensive and confidential. Working in partnership with Australian state and territory governments, Austrade provides international investors with information needed to establish or expand a business in Australia.
Austrade also assists international buyers to source goods and services from Australia or to identify strategic Australian business partners.
Austrade's role includes the international marketing and promotion of Australian education and training. Austrade co-ordinates and promotes the brand programs "Future Unlimited" which advertises Australian education and training institutions, and "Australia Unlimited" which promotes awareness of Australian skills and capabilities. It previously co-ordinated the "Building Brand Australia" program, a 4-year, A$20-million program to promote Australia's credentials as a "global citizen, global business partner and world class destination".
Austrade provides online information on export financing and other government financial assistance programs. It also administers the Export Market Development Grant (EMDG) Scheme, the Australian Government's financial assistance program for aspiring and current exporters, which encourages small and medium-sized Australian businesses to enter into and develop export markets. Under this scheme, eligible businesses are reimbursed for part of the export marketing costs they incur. The scheme supports a wide range of industry sectors and products, including inbound tourism and the export of intellectual property.
Established under the Australian Trade Commission Act 1985, Austrade is a prescribed agency subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and the Public Service Act 1999. Austrade operates as a statutory authority within the portfolio of Foreign Affairs and Trade, its chief executive officer reporting directly to the Minister for Trade and Investment.
From its establishment until 30 June 2006, Austrade was governed by a board. As a result of a report by John Uhrig AC published in June 2003, the board was replaced from 1 July 2006 by a chief executive officer.
In 2011, changes were made to programs and services "to create a more contemporary and sustainable Austrade and to deliver greater value for the business community and for the Government".
On 23 March 2016, the Trade Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1) 2016 was passed, which amended various acts to facilitate the agency's name change from "Australian Trade Commission" to "Australian Trade and Investment Commission", with the governing act title also changed accordingly to "Australian Trade and Investment Commission Act 1985".
|Chairmen of the Australian Trade Commission|
|1||Bill Ferris AC1||1988–1993|||
|2||Robert Johnston AO||1993–1995|||
|3||Roger Allen (acting)||1995|||
|4||Alan Jackson AO||1995–2001|||
|5||Ross Adler AC2||2001–2006|
Between 2004 and 2006, Austrade reportedly granted special access privileges and funds totalling $394,009 to the fraudulent company Firepower International, which also provided employment to two former senior Austrade managers in Europe and Russia. The agency denied Firepower had received special treatment. However, perceived legitimation of Firepower's activities by Austrade undoubtedly helped promote tens of millions of dollars in fraudulent share sales to the Australian public "without proper disclosure documents in breach of the Corporations Act". Possibly because of the close involvement of senior diplomats and politicians, including then prime minister John Howard and senior minister Julie Bishop, in the scandal, Austrade did not initiate prosecutions against Tim Johnston and other Firepower principals, as it had previously done against relatively minor perceived offenders such as Western Australian town planner and inventor Paul Ritter, who was imprisoned in the late 1980s on charges of making inappropriate export-grant applications.