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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Australian Indigenous trade set to thrive internationally

Australian Indigenous trade set to thrive internationally

Indigenous Affairs Economic Development
Wednesday, 31 January 2024

National Indigenous Australians Agency

International delegates at IPETCA 2023 in San Francisco.

Two Indigenous Australian trail blazers attended the inaugural Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement (IPETCA) Partnership Council Meeting in San Francisco in November 2023, representing Indigenous business priorities for Australia.

The IPETCA was endorsed by Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Chinese Taipei in 2021, and is the first multilateral economic forum dedicated to Indigenous trade and investment.

Damien Barnes and Leah Armstrong are the Australian Indigenous business leaders and Australian Indigenous Co-Representatives on the IPETCA Partnership Council.

Leah said the trip formalised the IPETCA Partnership Council. 

‘The inaugural meeting was a wonderful opportunity to collectively agree on how Indigenous perspectives and principles will be formalised and how IPETCA will operate and will set priorities,’ Leah said.

‘There was an agreement on priority areas of collaboration, including trade support services for the immediate needs of export ready Indigenous businesses and climate/Net Zero Economy and renewable energy.’

Leah said the Indigenous business sector in Australia had grown significantly over the past 10 years and global trade offered immense opportunities for Indigenous businesses to grow and reach more markets.

‘IPETCA offers valuable connections to economies with First Nations economic empowerment and inclusive trade priorities,’ Leah said. 

‘Through shared understanding on barriers and challenges to trade as well as collaborating on opportunities we can advocate for further support to enable trade readiness and access to markets for Australian Indigenous businesses.’

IPETCA Co Representative Damien Barnes said IPETCA also used the week to garner political support and momentum by meeting with APEC members in the lead up to the APEC Summit in San Francisco on 16 and 17 November. 

‘The meeting collaboration has led to alignment on several areas and significant support from additional APEC economies, including the United States and Peru,’ Damien said.

‘The United States is now participating in energised bilateral discussions with Australia aimed at creating opportunities for practical outcomes for Indigenous peoples in international trade, while we expect Peru to host the next IPETCA Partnership Council Meeting in 2024.

‘The meeting was also beneficial in generating interest among APEC economies who may wish to apply to join IPETCA.’

Leah said the week in San Francisco would help to increase access to global trade for Indigenous Australian businesses.

‘Access to global trade is the next frontier for growing Australian Indigenous businesses. 

‘Engaging in trade forums such as IPETCA and APEC raises the opportunity to push for inclusive trade agreements and practices.

‘This is an exciting chance to raise the opportunities for Indigenous inclusion in trade agreements and the IPETCA and APEC forums highlighted the enormous appetite for enabling Indigenous rights and inclusive trade to propel economic prosperity for all economies.’

Damien and Leah are supported as the First Nations IPETCA Partnership Council representatives by the National Indigenous Australians Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Find out more

Australia’s Indigenous Peoples have been trading with international partners for many thousands of years. These traditional practices of commerce are being revived and Australia’s economy includes a growing number of Indigenous companies. Between 2006 and 2016 the number of Indigenous companies incorporated in Australia increased by 72%, with further growth of an additional 6,320 new business owners reported in the 2021 census.