Trump the great trade disrupter

Australian exporters have serious concerns about the disruptive trade policies of US President Donald Trump and the administration’s withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). They are also concerned about the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and recent changes to 457 Visas.

That’s the key message from the 2017 DHL Export Barometer. But despite these serious fears exporters do see other sweet spots in the global economy such as in the Asia Pacific, including New Zealand, South East Asia and traditional markets. 

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Source: Insights from the DHL Export Barometer 2017

In fact, according to the 2017 Export Barometer, 67 per cent of exporters surveyed expect sales to increase over the next 12 months, which means that exporter confidence is at the highest level recorded since 2011 and only 2 per cent below the 2010 level. 

" Despite serious fears exporters do see sweet spots in the global economy such as in the Asia Pacific." Tim Harcourt, Author, The Airport Economist

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Further, more exporters have reported an uplift in actual orders, with 56 per cent of exporters recording an increase in orders over the past 12 months, which is the highest proportion in over 6 years.

There has also been a pick-up in sentiment amongst new exporters and traditional concerns about regulation, legal and cultural barriers have been subsiding. 

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In fact, for most exporters surveyed, it is getting easier not harder to do business on the world stage in a regulatory sense.

The trend in online marketing continues. 78 per cent of exporters generate orders from online channels with 25 per cent spending a whopping 60 per cent or more of their marketing budget online.

Exporters are also continuing to embrace social media with 48 per cent of exporters using social media channels to attract export orders.

They predominantly use Facebook but also Instagram, LinkedIn, You Tube and Twitter to reach younger consumers instantly worldwide particularly in South East Asia. The study found 46 per cent use online advertising to attract export orders, with Google advertising dominating.

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Thirty five per cent of exporters thought the Trump administration would have a negative impact on their export orders. Trump’s trade policies were the main reason for the negative sentiment with over one in four exporters believing the USA’s withdrawal from the TPP would adversely affect orders.

Brexit was in third place with 17 per cent of exporters expecting to be negatively affected. The recent change to 457 visas in the labour market was also a concern.

Thirteen per cent of exporters thought Amazon’s entry into the Australian market would have a negative effect on orders although 22 per cent thought it would be positive.

In response to uncertain world conditions and the draw of FTAs, exporters are focussing their efforts more tightly with the proportion of exporters selling to multiple regions reducing sharply from 76 per cent in 2015 to 68 percent in 2017.

One in four exporters claim their largest export market is New Zealand while one in five list North America. The UK is almost as popular as continental Europe and China dominates the North East Asian markets along with Hong Kong and the FTA markets of Japan and South Korea.

Exporters are also planning to target new markets – particularly New Zealand, South East Asia, Europe and the UK as well as some traditional Asian export destinations.

Interestingly, language and cultural and religious differences hardly rated at all as challenges for exporters. Being a sound business and respectful to international cultures were more important than being a champion linguist or ‘cross-cultural expert’.

Tim Harcourt is a JW Nevile Fellow in Economics, UNSW Sydney and host of The Airport Economist

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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