Australia-US FTA may boost local ICT exports

Australia-US FTA may boost local ICT exports

Despite concerns by local open source industry groups that an Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will result in US-led intellectual property laws being applied here, Austrade is confident the agreement will open a $US30 billion homeland security market to Australian technology companies.

Austrade senior ICT export advisor Katharine Heather said the US government market, while not a new opportunity with a "heap of" Australian companies already selling into it, it has traditionally been a complex process.

"The FTA will result in the relaxation of some regulations, but business won't be handed out on a plate," Heather said.

"The main challenges are complex distribution channels, a highly competitive marketplace, a long sales cycle, the need for highly innovative solutions, and finding US partners."

To help local ICT companies explore US government market opportunities and entrance strategies, Austrade is hosting series of seminars together with state governments.

The US Government Procurement Seminars will be held in Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide, from November 30.

Ursys, a local manufacturer of Linux-based network security devices, is one such company that fits Austrade's ICT export profile.

Ursys' managing director, Grahame Cover, said although the company does not yet export directly, its products are being implemented overseas by Australian companies.

"We've had several dealings with Austrade to establish opportunities in the Middle East," Cover said. "Overseas business circumstances are just so different and it's good to have Austrade to smoothe that front for you."

If approved, the FTA is expected to come into force on January 1, 2005.

Meanwhile, Austrade is looking to appoint a knowledge and information manager to "lead the future development of Australia's knowledge and information management function".

Austrade's CIO Greg Field said although the role fits into the commission's knowledge management department and not IT, he would not object to an IT professional applying for the job.

"The role stretches from performance management to delivering better business results and is much more than technology," Field said. "It is a direct report to the CIO and will involve interaction with IT in a daily basis."

A remuneration package of $140,000 is on offer and applications close November 19.

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