The New Zealand Productivity Commission (NZPC) has launched a joint project with the Australian Productivity Commission into growing the digital economy and maximising opportunities for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
NZPC says the project will explore how institutional and regulatory settings in the two countries can support the use of digital technology and, in particular, how small and medium enterprises can maximise the opportunities from digital transformation.
NZPC describes the move as “a jointly produced research project rather than a full-blown inquiry,” and says that, for this reason and given the tight timeframe for reporting back to the two prime ministers, its usual consultation and engagement processes will be tightly constrained.
According to the project’s terms of reference, from minister of finance Grant Robertson, it is the result of commitment made by the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand in March this year to review how the two countries can work together “to further remove barriers and enhance our already-close economic relationship,” and at which they “commissioned work to identify opportunities for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to make full use of trans-Tasman economic integration”
Robertson says the two productivity commissions should: “explore the extent to which institutional and regulatory settings in the two countries support opportunities for the utilisation of digital technology, and should consider the ability of SMEs to benefit from trans-Tasman economic integration and digital technology, including barriers to entry or expansion and any factors specific to SMEs that might impede them harnessing the opportunities from digital technology.”
The two commissions have also been told to focus their attention on areas that offer the greatest potential benefits to both economies. They are required to report by the end of January 2019, and their report will be made public.
At the time of writing the Australian Productivity Commission had made no statement on its website about the enquiry. However Australia’s minister for trade, tourism and investment, Steven Ciobo issued a statement on 3 August saying that he and NZ minister for trade and export growth, David Parker had made a joint announcement of the enquiry.