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View of Sydney Harbour in early morning from wing-side seat of plane

Key takeaways

Asia continues to provide new export opportunities for Australian SMEs, including a range of free trade agreements (FTAs) into high-growth markets.

Forget luck: due diligence, research, and trustworthy local partners determine whether Australian SMEs succeed in Asia.

New Zealand offers a comfortable starting point for SMEs who are hesitant to jump into Asian markets.

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Don’t lose your shirt in the US: here’s why Aussie SMEs should enter Asia (and NZ!) this year

Step 1: do your homework

Many SMEs remain unsure of how to operate in different cultures and understand trade barriers and customs processes. The solution is simple, according to Harcourt: time and research. A clear-headed assessment of current finances and capabilities, drafting an export strategy, and rigorous research or product testing in potential markets all play a major role in successfully entering Asia.

“While there are a number of success stories, Australian exporters need to do their homework to ensure they impress internationally,” says Gary Edstein, Senior Vice President, DHL Express Oceania. “Every country is uniquely influenced by local cultures, trends and external factors such as existing trade relationships with other countries. Understanding the countries and the major business players from the start can help SMEs stay away from easily-avoidable failures.”

Harcourt recommends SMEs complete a thorough investigation of the tax investment and business regulations in a prospective country. Information on regulations can be obtained directly from the country’s relevant government trade body or by getting in touch with AusTrade, Australia’s trade commission. Every SME should also carry out due diligence to establish prospective trade partners’ assets, liabilities and commercial potential before signing any contracts, says Harcourt. The rules are the same as in any overseas market, Asian or otherwise: know your legal liability and don’t sign anything if it puts you at risk.


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