Austrade has advised that the Trade Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2016 has now been passed by both Houses of Parliament and was given Royal Assent on 23 March 2016.

As a result, the Export Market Development Grants Act 1997 has been amended to give effect to several key recommendations resulting from the 2015 Review of the Export Market Development Grants (EMDG) scheme. It also makes minor policy and technical amendments to improve the operation of the Act and delivers savings to align the scheme closer to its budget.

A very important change to the Act relates to the amendment of the definition of a grant year. Due to this change, the scheme is effectively ongoing, as the Act no longer has a specified termination date.

The Act has also been amended to remove the requirement that the independent review of the scheme is to be conducted for the specific purpose of making a recommendation about the continuity of the scheme. The amended Act does, however, specify a date for the next review of the scheme.

The amendments (detailed in Schedule 1 of the Bill) come into effect from 1 July 2016 and will apply to expenses incurred in the 2016-17 grant year (payable in 2017-18).

The amendments that change an EMDG grant entitlement are:

  • The removal communications as an eligible expenditure category (this includes removing the automatic three per cent increase to a claim for this category);
  • Placing a limit of $15,000 on the free sample expenditure category, noting that for claimants that are combining two years of expenditure, and one of these years is the 2015-16 financial year, no limit applies; and
  • Repealing the provision that allows for the reimbursement of in-country travel (other than air fares) and increasing the amount of the daily allowance for overseas visits from $300 to $350.

Other changes to the Act are:

  • Describing the promotional literature or other advertising expenditure category so that it mentions literature or material in electronic or any other form;
  • Adding to the list of excluded expenses those relating to eligible promotional activities, things or eligible products that the CEO of Austrade considers may have had a detrimental impact on Australia’s trade reputation; and
  • Permitting Austrade to direct funds from other sources towards EMDG administration costs.

Austrade will make guidance material available on its website in the lead-up to the new grant year.