The significant volume of international trade in goods, both inbound and outbound, through Australia’s ports presents many challenges for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (‘Customs’), chief amongst these include increasingly complex supply chains, perceived unfair overseas competition to Australian industry, supply chain security, trade liberalisation and technology.

The result is a continually changing landscape of rules and regulations governing Australia’s imports and exports.  In recent times new measures have been introduced which:

  • Significantly reforms Anti-dumping and countervailing laws to afford stronger protection to Australian industry
  • Mitigates vulnerabilities at Australia's borders by increasing control of those in the supply chain
  • Introduces export controls for strategic and dual use goods moving in tangible and intangible forms
  • Governs the valuation of goods involving transfer pricing arrangements
  • Increases complexity to securing customs duty concessions for major projects (specifically in the resource, oil and gas, infrastructure projects)

Against this backdrop, Customs has recently been provided increased funding dedicated to compliance activities and an increase in penalty unit costs.  This provides clear evidence that Australian importers and exporters are facing a new international trading environment.

The general rate of customs duty in Australia is 5% (with the exception of apparel and excisable goods which attract a higher rate), however in cases where goods are not available from Australian production or are not destined for the Australian market a wide variety of customs duty concessions and suspension schemes may be available.

Australia has negotiated a wide network of bi and multi-lateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). These agreements offer Australian importers and exporters customs duty savings and preferential treatment for their goods in/from countries throughout Asia and the Pacific.  Further, Australia has a strong pipeline of FTAs currently in negotiation and has a policy of advancing FTAs which make economic sense to Australia.

When advising clients on cross border transactions, a closer examination of the issues usually highlights the true complexities of the policies and laws. Our advisers can share their experience and knowledge, not only with the customs issues at hand, but with the broader opportunities which often go unnoticed.