What are Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)?

Businesses navigating free trade agreements can often find it an overwhelming process of finding the right information. Below we’ve broken down what free trade agreements (FTAs) are, countries Australia has them with, and links to comprehensive resources to assist businesses within Australia navigating freight forwarding – if you have any questions our team at Personalised Freight Solutions will be able to help you.

If you would like to see more of our range of services in regards to sea freight – please don’t hesitate to visit our Sea Freight page here .

What are Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)?

A free trade agreement (FTA) is an international treaty between two or more economies that reduces or eliminates certain barriers to trade in goods and services, as well as investment. FTAs benefit Australian exporters, importers, producers and investors by reducing and eliminating certain barriers to international trade. The Oxford English Dictionary records the use of the phrase “free trade agreement” with reference to the Australian colonies as early as 1877.

What counties does Australia have Free Trade Agreements with?

Australia currently has free trade agreements in force with Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Cook Islands, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States, Vanuatu, and Vietnam.

Australia’s entry-into-force date’s per country for FTAs

The following are Australia’s free trade agreements (listed with the entry-into-force date).

What resources are available to support Australian businesses navigate FTAs?

DFAT’s FTA Portal is a comprehensive resource for exporters, and importers of goods and service providers looking to explore the benefits of Australia’s current free trade agreements and how to apply for preferential treatment under those FTAs.

You can access the FTA Portal at ftaportal.dfat.gov.au.

Another great resource is the Free Trade Advantage Online platform. The Free Trade Advantage online platform brings together a range of practical advice and resources to help Australian businesses access the benefits of Australia’s FTAs.

Filled with videos, animations, interactive quizzes, and a glossary to explain all the technical terms – Free Trade Advantage is designed to help new and experienced exporters alike navigate the FTA process, making sure Australian businesses make the most of all the benefits FTAs have to offer.

There’s also a range of business case study videos, webinars and other resources available for sharing and creating tailored FTA learning journeys.

Check out the useful links above & If you need further assistance with your individual circumstances please feel free to contact the PFS team anytime!

How to choose between Sea or Air Freight Forwarding

Whether you’ve just started your first business or have years of experience, selecting the right type of freight forwarding for your company can be a stressful process. While it’s easy to think in black and white when reviewing between sea or air freight, it’s important to us at Personalised Freight Solutions that every business has the right information to make the best decision for them – especially, in logistics where changes can occur instantly  and have a significant impact on your business positive or negative.

We wanted to share our knowledge and experience when choosing between sea or air freight, as often new clients come to us only possessing rote knowledge which doesn’t take into account the context of their requirements and the wider environment. The most effective way we thought to share this information at a general level was to cover frequent questions that were asked, which are related to; cost, reliability, flexibility, fastest, safest and if we had to pick only one means of transport – what would we pick?

What is the cheaper option between Sea and Air Freight?

Most often sea freight is the cheapest option for companies to choose when selecting a freight carrier type – but this is often because there are a greater range of container types and has the ability to transport large quantities or bulky items. Sea freight is charged per cubic meter for LCL options or  per container rate for full containers. Airfreight is either based on the actual weight or volumetric weight (the space the cargo takes up) – whichever is greater, which is called the chargeable weight.

What is the more reliable option between Sea and Air Freight?

Reliability often depends on the season because of the changes in demand, rather how long of a delay are businesses impacted by freight types. When delays occur with air freight, whether there’s a missed flight or a delay due to weather – typically, you can expect another flight within the next day or two. In comparison to sea freight, which if your cargo misses the cut-off date for a departing vessel or the ship is delayed in meeting a transhipment vessel – you can expect a delay by up to week or more. Where we have seen this in full impact, was during COVID  lockdowns for a lot of countries through 2020, sea freight then became the more reliable option as there were less flights during this time.

What is the more flexible option between Sea and Air Freight?

Sea freight gives greater flexibility in referring to shipping container options when transporting – air freight, unfortunately, due to higher regulations has stricter policies and procedures in place. The impact of these stricter policies and procedures impact what can be transported, whether it’s restricted all together due to  it’s bulky size or the type of commodity the item  is.

 What is the fastest option between Sea and Air Freight?

If you require your item yesterday and it’s not bulky (leaving shipping as your only method of transport), air freight will enable you to receive your items ASAP. Unfortunately, if you have bulky items and you need these products to be transported ASAP you still are (in some circumstances, depending on what you’re transporting) able to  use air freight but it is likely that you would have to charter an entire plane – a path which is rarely taken due to the prohibitive cost associated with such an activity. It will all depend on the commodity and actual weight and dimensions of your cargo.

What is the safest option between Sea and Air Freight? 

Air freight is typically seen as the safer option when compared to sea freight, because of the high regulations associated with planes and air travel (in addition to the shorter time period of travel, which indicates less time for interferences to occur).

The verdict – is Sea or Air Freight better? 

When it comes to selecting sea or air freight, there isn’t a single black and white answer on which freight option is better – as with most decisions in both business and life, it’s circumstantial. If you’re stuck deciding what’s the best option for you and your business, we encourage you to call our team at Personalised Freight Solutions to answer any of your questions or to click below to find out more about our air and sea freight service offering.

How Much is Your Product Worth?

Personalised Freight Solutions (PFS) job is to assist, educate and facilitate.

An important service we provide is to assist our clients in understanding the value of their product when it lands at their door here in Australia.

What is Landed Cost? “A landed cost is the total price of a product once it has arrived at a buyer’s door. The landed cost includes the original price of the product, all transportation fees (both inland and ocean), customs, duties, taxes, insurance, currency conversion, crating, handling and payment fees”

Knowing the landed cost of the goods you are importing is vital to be able to gain an understanding on the viability of it in a retail market. The cost of importing your goods can equal if not exceed the actual purchase price of your goods.

Just today, on two occasions both myself and Christine heard “but the goods are only worth……….. and the shipping is double that!”.

It is important to research the cost to import your goods including all the import taxes prior to setting up an entire business model on your product. For example, you have a Chinese supplier who will sell you a 20′ container of chairs, they are offering a sale price of USD 22.00 (AUD 29.00 at today’s exchange) per chair for minimum order of 450 chairs. When looking at the retail market, you can sell these chairs for AUD 45.00 max to be competitive. This gives you a total profit AUD7,200 when you sell all 450 chairs.

However, what will the chairs be worth after you import them to Australia? I can tell you, by using our landed costing model that they will be worth AUD 39.00. This reduces your profit to AUD 4,500 total. To maintain your AUD 7,200 profit if that is what you have based your business model on you would actually need to sell these chairs for AUD 55.00 per chair. Does this make you AUD 10.00 per chair more expenses then your competitions? Can you sell all 450 at this price in the chair market?

Your freight forwarder should be more than a supplier who moves your freight into (or out of) Australia. Your freight forwarder should be able to advise you on the true value of your goods landed so that you have the confidence that your business is making viable decisions on the products it is selling.

Announcing Personalised Freight Solutions are Premium Service Providers to APPA!

Personalised Freight Solutions are proud to announce we are now a Premium Service Provider to APPA. Come and say hi at the Brisbane Roadshow March 24th and we can fill you in on all the great benefits we have for APPA members.


Inconsistent Pricing


A reoccurring comment we hear from LCL importers is “Why is it that our charges are so inconsistent?”. On investigation, we find that it all comes back to the agreed incoterms of sale. Generally finding that it is that the importer is buying on CIF terms.

CIF is “Cost Insurance Freight”, the buyer is paying the seller for the cost of the goods, transit insurance and Freight to port of entry at destination country. This for importers seems like the “easiest” option.

However, what this can create is limit control on timing, create additional work for the buyer to stay on top of shipping details to plan for the goods on arrival and local charges being charged according to which ever consolidation handling office the suppliers consolidator uses.

Does that mean you should not buy CIF? No, this is still a good option for many importers. To solve the common issues with control and inconsistent charges, communicate with your supplier and your freight agent. Make your expectation clear and ask that your supplier(s) and your freight agent work together to ensure that your expectations on timing and costs are still being met.

3 easy tips that may assist:

  1. When accepting a CIF quote from the overseas seller, issue them with a Purchase Order that outlines expectation on arrival time into Australia
  2. Provide a copy of the quote, purchase order and specific details of the seller to your freight agent. Ask they communicate with the seller to determine the consolidator details and associated arrival charges when arriving in Australia. Your freight agent can advise the seller what are the acceptable arrival charges so this can be negotiated when the seller is booking with the consolidator at origin.
  3. Establish a landed costing model with your freight agent. A landed cost is establishing what your goods are worth when they arrive at your door in Australia prior to being sold into the market. This will give you a value window of acceptable costs to pay on import rather than specific costs.

The key to limiting inconsistencies is EXPECTATION AND COMUNICATION!


“My goods ship from China, therefore they are Duty Free”

Many Importers have been enjoying a saving of 5% on their import duties since the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement took affect 20th December, 2015.

For importers, both experienced and new who still think “My goods ship from China, therefore they are Duty Free” please take time to completely understand the implications of the Free Trade Agreement and specifically how the goods you are importing are affected.

It is not correct to make the assumption that because your goods ship from China they are automatically duty free and if your representation who handle your border clearances are declaring them as such with out the correct documentation, it is you as the importer who will be held liable for the 5% duty not paid at the time of importation. 5% of your total imports for the year would certainly add up, in additional to interest and fines.

A good starting point is asking the following questions of your representation:

  1. Are my suppliers providing a certificate of origin for each shipment?
  2. If they are, does the certificate of origin state a HS code for each item in each shipment?
  3. If they are, does the certificate correctly link to all the other commercial documentation for the shipment?

If any of these answers are no, but your duty rate has dropped on your customs declaration. Work with your freight agent and your suppliers to get this right for past and future shipments.

It may be that your items have not dropped to 0% duty at all and will not do so until 2019, in fact if you are importing items that fall under the likes of HS Code 62304300 Boys Shorts, and provide a Certificate of Origin you will end up paying 6% duty!

see http://www.chinaaustraliafta.com.au for further guidance.


3 Ways to Reduce Costs on Importing

As a business owner myself, I understand the need to keep costs as low as possible to remain competitive in your market and gain a healthy profit margin.

When looking at the logistics chain, many importers believe “shopping around” to get the best price is the best way to ensure costs on shipping remain as low as possible. Sure this will absolutely work on face value but may become a somewhat false economy!

If you have a trusted relationship with a freight provider but would like to assess to see if there are any areas in the process where money can be saved, here is 3 suggestions on where to start looking:

1. Documentation

In Australia, to clear goods through our borders it is not always necessary to have to have original documentation. If you pay for your goods before they leave the sellers factory, discuss with the seller and your freight agent to have electronic copies of the shipping documents. This can include: Bill of Lading, Commercial Invoices, Packing Lists, Packing Declarations and Certificate of Origin.

Very often we see (especially ex China), sellers using international couriers to send original documents to the buyers attracting a fee of sometimes up to USD75.00 per shipment.

2. Rate negotiation based on Volumes

Many shipping lines will reduce shipping rates based on commitment of volume on their services. If you are an importer shipping between 2 to 5 containers a week, speak to your freight agent to make sure they are negotiating the best freight deals on your behalf based on your volumes.

Your freight forwarder should be doing the shopping around not you, that is their role, make them work a little harder on your behalf. Loyalty will pay off!

3. Transit Times

Transit times can play a role on both the international and domestic leg of your goods being moved. With international sea freight, as an example, a 2 week transit from Shanghai to Brisbane is not the only option you have when shipping ex Shanghai. There are transit times up to 4 weeks that may see a saving of up to USD 300.00 per container. Work with your freight agent and communicate when cargo is needed (specific dates) so they can work on giving you options based on required dates, rather than say a direct option or a transhipment option.

When the goods arrive into Australia and need to be moved domestically, there are options between a direct drive service and an all day service. If you are in your warehouse from say 8 to 5 everyday of the week and the goods do not need to be there at any particular time, opt for an all day service. There may be a significant saving depending on volumes and distance of travel.

Again communication is key, question what the process currently is and if your business model allows for change work with your freight agent to make the changes and SAVE MONEY! Who knows you may save more than the seemingly “better” quote that you shopped around for.

China Freight Rates – 2015 vs 2016

With the first Quarter of 2016 behind us, it is interesting to check in to see where the freight rates Ex China are sitting.

As you can see from this chart, rates are significantly lower than that of 2015. It was around this time last year that we reported in on rates and how they were trending. What seemed like rates too good to be true in March, April or May 2015 now seem a little high when we you place them in comparison to March or April of this year.

Freight Rates - 15 vs 16

What are the drivers of low freight rates? And why is it a constant up and down situation? It is a simple case of supply and demand. With the low Australian dollar (in March for Example as low as 0.67) and the down turn in mining in Australia, the vessels out of China are carrying less cargo.

To try to make a comparison it is like the circle of life

circle of life

Today’s media is full of reports on the unrest in our government, the Australian dollar movement, Mining and taxes all these economic drivers will affect where the freight rates sit.

ChaFTA – What does it all mean?

At Personalised Freight Solutions we strive to ensure our customers are being educated on process improvements and industry changes in relation to their freight movements internationally. When the government issued a media release 9th December announcing the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChaFTA) would set to start and flow as at 20th December (http://trademinister.gov.au/releases/Pages/2015/ar_mr_151209.aspx), we knew we had to act fast to gather comprehensive information and present it in an easy to follow way ensuring importers and exporters would have a complete understanding on how these changes would affect businesses on an individual basis. We have put this website together to take out all of the propaganda and give the facts in real terms.

  • FACT – Not all imports from China will be immediately eligible to claim 0% duty on their exports / imports to / from China.
  • FACT – A staging system will be used to start to implement this trade agreement. Rates for ‘Year 1’ will apply immediately from December 20, 2015, Rates for ‘Year 2’ will apply from January 1, 2016 and so on.

Our Lookup tool will provide this information on what stage your product will be eligible for 0% Duty on Import – http://www.chinaaustraliafta.com.au

Ensure you check the FAQ’s for documentation guidelines or feel free to contact us for further guidance!


Personalised Freight Solutions is an international freight forwarding company, simplifying the movement of cargo globally. Our services include import and export, sea and air freight, border clearances, and on ground trucking at both origin and destination.
165-171 Broadwater Terrace, Suite 8
Redland Bay
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