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Trade Minister Andrew Robb touts Australia's economic freedom ranking in US

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Peter Martin and Nick O'Malley

Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb.

Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb.

While in Canberra the Commission of Audit was railing against Australia's ''poor productivity, high dollar, high energy costs and heavy reliance on the resources sector'', in Los Angeles Australia's Trade Minister was declaring the nation just about the most attractive in the world.

''In terms of the ease of doing business we are ranked No.3 in the world ranking of economic freedom, behind only the island states of Hong Kong and Singapore,'' he told the US-Australia dialogue.

Andrew Robb has support. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative US think tank, has once again named Australia as third freest nation in which to do business, putting us behind Hong Kong and Singapore, and above New Zealand and Taiwan in fourth and fifth.

''With an economy that benefits from sound fundamentals including monetary stability, low public debt, and a vibrant employment market, Australia has weathered the global economic uncertainty well,'' the foundation said.

''Openness to global trade and investment is firmly institutionalised, supported by a relatively efficient entrepreneurial framework and a well-functioning independent judiciary.''

The United States dropped from the world's 10th to 12th freest of the 186 nations surveyed.

A Heritage Foundation analyst, Brian Riley, said that while in the organisation's view Labor's stimulus package during the financial crisis had been a negative, Australia's bipartisan commitment to free trade and support for foreign investment as well as its relatively low tax rates were enough to keep it near the top.

Mr Robb released an Austrade benchmarking report outlining Australia's strengths in ''growth, innovation, talent, location and business''.

''We are the only OECD country without a recession in 22 years,'' he said. ''Almost 40 per cent of our workforce holds tertiary qualifications and we rank third in the world in terms of the number of universities in the Top 100.''

It takes just 2½ days of red tape to start a business in Australia compared with five days in the United States and 12 days in Britain.

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