Trade has long been central to Australia's economic development, providing jobs and incomes for millions of Australians. Goods, particularly resources and agricultural products will continue to be the cornerstone of Australian exports.
Exports of services will play a growing role in generating jobs and wealth in those cornerstone industries. Transport, finance, information technology and engineering services firms supply specialised capabilities to export-oriented businesses.
The growth of services is not a substitute for growth of manufacturing, agriculture or resources but is a valuable complement and support mechanism for those industries as well as a provider of services to the community.
It is therefore unsurprising that the 2.9 million new jobs created by Australia's services industries since 2000 have more than offset a collective reduction of 256,000 jobs in agriculture and manufacturing. In the same period, employment in the resources sector increased by 165,000.
As well as accounting for the lion's share of GDP and employment growth, Australian services - led by financial, transport, education and professional services – have delivered substantial export earnings.
Taking into account the earnings from direct service exports and the value added by services supplied to other export industries, the services sector generated $A112 billion in value-added export earnings in 2013, supporting 1.1 million Australian jobs.
By comparison, mining exports were worth $A101 billion supporting 227,000 jobs. Indeed, Australia's largest export category is not agriculture, manufacturing nor mining; it is the services sector.
The urbanisation and modernisation of Asian economies will also create opportunities and jobs for Australian businesses supplying services directly from Australia, for example in financial services, education, business services, transport and health.
Australia will also need to increase the offshore presence of Australian businesses to be close to our future customers and provide links between Australia and the region. Today, the contribution of offshore Australian businesses to the economy is not reported in export statistics but it will assume a growing importance.