Inside Australia's new international trade certification program for professionals

Lisa McAulay from the Export Council of Australian with Arnold Jorge (left) from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Geoff Cox (right) from the Commonwealth Bank at the invitation only Trade Facilitation Reform: A Business and Government Partnership conference held in Sydney, Australia on Dec. 13, 2016. Photo by: Ella Martin

The Export Council of Australia is set to launch a new international certification program for trade that aims to provide professionals with the skills and expertise that is increasingly required to navigate global exchange.

The Global Trade Professional Program will target professionals across a variety of levels, from small business exporters to large scale firms. GTPP aims to be the equivalent of a certified public accountant program for trade, improving both professionalism and knowledge.

The ECA launched its engagement process for the program at the Trade Facilitation Reform: A Business and Government Partnership conference in Sydney on Dec. 13. The program is set to launch in Australia in July 2017, with plans to expand into the region and then globally.

Officials involved in the launch told Devex the program could be particularly useful for small and medium-sized enterprises. Particularly in developing countries, SMEs drive economic growth, promote job creation and foster innovation. But for them to see their full economic potential, exporting to international markets needs to be part of the business plan.

“Navigating the complexity of doing global business and maintaining a competitive edge required up-to-date skills and knowledge,” Lisa McAuley, CEO of the ECA, explained at the launch. “SMEs and individuals engaged in global trade need to develop the management skills to enable them to access necessary information and contacts as well the legal and commercial intelligence to navigate the regulatory regimes in global markets.”

What is the Global Trade Professional Program?

The GTPP will offer four levels of certification, ranging from foundation skills to master level. “A master is a Yoda of trade that has been doing this for a very long time,” McAulay told Devex of the highest qualification.

The course consists of workshops, online material and interactive group training and as it meets ISO standards, any certification received through this program is applicable throughout the world.

Educations programs will address this spectrum of trade knowledge, ensuring students understand the technicality of trade. The courses will aim to bridge gaps between politics, theory and practicality. They will cover both longstanding trade norms as well as new trends such as e-commerce and supply chain security.

“Initially an exporter is just happy to export, but they achieve that and then want to empower themselves to do more and be more competitive,” Diane Tipping, chair of the ECA, told Devex. “So they need to go to the next step and understand trade agreements, policies and nontariff barriers. And that is a process that can’t be done in a week or month and takes time.”

GTPP aims to evolve its own courses in sync with the market. The format of the course will allow new modules to be added annually and new information to be shared online and at forums.

“The program will always ensure there is a mechanism to understand that participant will always need to be learning because it is a constantly changing environment,” McAulay explained. “It is a changing regulatory environment and necessary to even someone with 20 years of experience in trade.”

When and where will it be available to students?

Prior to GTPP, there has not been an international standard for the global trade industry. This program aims to “transcend standards”, according to McAulay: To provide expertise that can transform businesses and livelihoods. And as global trade practices become aligned under the guidance of the World Trade Organization, this course will increase in international relevance as demand for assistance by governments and businesses grow.

The first courses will be available in Australia from July 2017, run by the ECA, with initial plans to expand into the Southeast Asian market soon after. But the aim is for the program to be shared as intellectual property with any other country that wants to provide the certification within their own borders.

“The ECA will deliver the program in Australia but we want other government agencies or authorities to run their own program that follows international standard,” McAuley said.

“This is a worldwide program,” Tipping added.

Before July, there are opportunities for international engagement in the development of the program. ECA will host a series of technical and international committees and forums in March to discuss and seek feedback on the construction of the program.

The Trade Facilitation Reform conference has already seen developing countries reach out with interest in the program. ECA will be aiming to support them and SMEs within their country that could benefit economically and socially from the new international certification. NGOs working to support SMEs in developing countries are encouraged to be a part of this process.

“We are interested in hearing from anybody that is interested in the program,” McAulay told Devex. While there may initially be a regional focus, ECA want to be talking with and preparing countries now so they are ready for the July launch. “Put up your hand,” McAulay urged.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade financially supported the reporter’s travel to Sydney to attend the Trade Facilitation Reform conference. Devex retains full editorial independence and responsibility for this content.

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About the author

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    Lisa Cornish

    Lisa Cornish is a Devex Reporter based in Canberra, where she focuses on the Australian aid community. Lisa formerly worked with News Corp Australia as a data journalist for the national network and was published throughout Australia in major metropolitan and regional newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph in Melbourne, Herald Sun in Melbourne, Courier-Mail in Brisbane, and online through Lisa additionally consults with Australian government providing data analytics, reporting and visualization services. Lisa was awarded the 2014 Journalist of the Year by the New South Wales Institute of Surveyors.