he most interesting opportunities we get as DFAT officers are not always found behind a desk in Canberra. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to accompany Simon Newnham, Australia’s APEC Ambassador and First Assistant Secretary of the Investment and Economic Division, on a visit to Tokyo. As part of that visit, Simon addressed a Symposium hosted by Japan’s Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI) and the Australian National University (ANU).

The increase in the world’s connectivity has paved the way for an explosion in illegal trade in exotic pets. Billions of people across the world are now connected through various forms of social media. People can share pictures of themselves with a weird-looking lizard, or an adorable sugar-glider, and the desire for these pets can go viral.

Aid for trade accounts for about 40 per cent of all aid funding to Asia and the Pacific and is integral to the region’s economic development. Aid for trade can benefit socially vulnerable groups, including women. Internet access can be transformative in providing opportunities for small firms, often owned by women, to tap into previously inaccessible markets.

Some of the most useful work we do as DFAT officers is not behind our desks – it’s when we’re face-to-face engaging with and learning from our global counterparts. I was reminded of this when I spent the day with a delegation of 55 Papua New Guinean officials who will lead and contribute to PNG’s hosting of APEC in 2018.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) commits World Trade Organization (WTO) members to implement common sense customs reforms, which will make procedures around the international movement of goods faster, cheaper and more transparent.

Row of speakers standing on stage.

About 1,500 delegates gathered at the World Trade Organization in Geneva for the Sixth Global Aid for Trade Review. This event looks at progress that the world is making to improve the lives of poor people by helping them to trade.

Over the past decade, science, technology and innovation have become increasingly important to Australia’s foreign policy, and the foreign policies of our major trading partners.