This week I will be holding high level meetings with counterparts in the UK and Germany on the UK and European economies, assessing the progress and suitability of financial sector innovations and housing affordability reforms and promoting Australia's financial technology (FinTech) agenda at the G20 symposium on financial technology and digitalisation.
Digitalisation is occurring rapidly in the finance sector and I am pleased it will be one of the key priorities of Germany’s 2017 G20 Presidency. The G20 conference provides the opportunity for officials from G20 countries, including central banks, financial regulators and policy makers, to explore the risks and, more importantly, the opportunities it presents.
Australia is well positioned to be at the forefront in this emerging space and has the opportunity to capture the benefits it will bring. We have a strong and stable financial system, but it is important that we keep pace with international developments to ensure our sector can remain competitive and continue to meet the needs of Australians.
I will deliver an address to the conference to highlight actions the Australian Government is taking at a policy and regulatory level to promote the innovative FinTech industry in Australia.
While in Europe, I will take the opportunity to meet with Ministers, central banks and representatives from the business community in the United Kingdom to discuss a range of issues, including the importance of the Australia-UK trade and investment relationship.
Trade and investment with the UK
While there has been attention recently on growing international anti-trade sentiment, the Australian Government is committed to pursuing policies that enhance trade relationships. The Government is also committed to working internationally to challenge policies that would close international trade access for Australia.
As Brexit takes shape, the Australian Government will work to maintain and improve the close investment relationship between Australia and the UK. As trading nations, we have both benefited from globalisation. Indeed Australia’s total trade with the UK was worth around AUD $27 billion in 2015-16, with Australian exports worth around AUD $12 billion and our imports from the UK around AUD $15 billion.
Prime Minister May’s comments earlier this week on her Government’s approach to Brexit underscore the UK’s commitment to the benefits of open trade in noting that “trade is not a zero sum game: more of it makes us all more prosperous”.
Discussions during this visit will begin laying the foundations for Australia to strike new beneficial trade and investment arrangements with the UK that benefit our businesses, exporters and citizens.
While in the financial centre of London I will explore a number of policies the UK is pursuing around innovation and management in the financial system.
The rapid adoption of digital technologies is driving innovation across the economy. In the financial sector, new payment methods, access to alternative funding sources and the adoption of mobile technologies are examples of how innovation can deliver efficiency and improved services for consumers.
I will take the opportunity to hold a number of meetings with a range of experts and entrepreneurs to discuss FinTech and innovation, particularly how improved use of information can deliver benefits for consumers.
The UK has recently introduced fundamental changes for major banks to provide customers with greater access to data held about them, and requiring data be made available to third parties through an API (application programming interface). Developments in the UK can supplement the outcomes of an inquiry into data availability and use, which is to report to the Government early this year.
While in London, I will take the opportunity to meet with financiers and specialists in the affordable housing and government sectors to learn more about the UK’s affordable housing policies and determine if they are fit for purpose in the Australian context. Improving housing affordability is a key policy goal for the Australian Government. The UK is leading the way on this front with a number of affordable housing initiatives.
Australian governments combined currently spend over $10 billion per year on housing in Australia. This funding needs to be used more efficiently in order to help disadvantaged households overcome the challenge of not being able to access secure and affordable housing, which has significant flow on effects to so many other social and economic outcomes.
During the visit, I will meet with UK Chancellor Philip Hammond, Housing and Planning Minister and Minister for London, Gavin Barwell and City Minister Simon Kirby. I will also hold briefing meetings with the Bank of England and European Central Bank as well as the UK Housing Finance Corporation, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Homes and Communities Agency, the Open Data Institute, Financial Conduct Authority and Big Society Capital.