Australia's traditional place in the world economy, a European - orientated exporter of primary commodities, is facing the need for change. This report argues that successful participation in the global economy depends on sustained created competitive advantage rather than on the exploitation of natural resource endowments.
The services sector is the fastest growing sector in world trade with substantial opportunities for exporters, particularly in Asia. It allows countries and individual firms to internalise their intangible assets, particularly education and technical expertise, and utilise them profitably abroad.
Asia, as the fastest growing region in the world economy, offers the greatest potential for Australian services exporters. International best practice in all sectors of the Australian economy is essential if the country is to be competitive abroad. Much remains to be done domestically to ensure a competitive position. This report argues, however, that efficiency and best - practice are merely the conditions which permit firms to enter foreign markets.
Success, particularly in the services sector, is dependent on cultural empathy and respect for the traditions and customs of individual countries. Although government has an important part to play in ensuring a high level of domestic economic efficiency and in negotiating market access for Australian firms in Asia the success or failure of Australian service exports depends on the firms themselves.
Despite rhetorical commitment to Asia by politicians and business groups there is evidence that cultural differences have led Australian firms to ignore the region. Until a genuine commitment to Asia, supported by investment flows and cultural, particularly linguistic, competency, is forthcoming, Australia will fail to realise its full potential as a part of the Asia - Pacific Region.