MUCH has been said in the past few years about Australia's desire to become more economically integrated with Asia, but it is only very recently that any tangible evidence of a growing presence has emerged. And though Australia boasts an abundance of software development and telecommunications talent, there has been little in the way of drive into export markets. This is about to change, if the Australian software export company SunTrade has its way. SunTrade was established with the specific charter to export and promote Australian products in Asia. The company, set up just last year, withheadquarters in Brisbane, has a Southeast Asian office in Singapore, and plans to open an office in Hongkong in July. SunTrade is an unusual amalgamation of interests, with its roots in the Australian subsidiary of the American workstation manufacturer Sun Microsystems. Under the Australian Government's ''Partnership Programme'', large corporations doing business there are expected to commit to various schemes that will either create jobs, or create exportable products. Sun Australia put up substantial funding and equipment for the venture. In each country market, SunTrade will, for the first 18 months, promote only software which runs on the Sun Microsystems platform. After 18 months, SunTrade will start exporting any software designed for UNIX System V Release 4.0 (SVR4) - making SunTrade an open systems software distribution house. The other partners in the venture are the Queensland Industry Development Corporation (QIDC), a government-owned venture capital firm, and Dialog, a Brisbane-based systems integration house. SunTrade managing director Mr Alan Key said the company had already established a porting centre - called the Software International Laboratory - in Brisbane to help Australian software houses to localise their products for the Asian markets. Mr Key said that although there was no shortage of developers in Australia, most lacked the resources to make forays into overseas markets. ''Typically, a lot of the [Australian] companies that are developers are technically very strong, but don't have the infrastructure, or the working capital or the backing to get their products off-shore,'' Mr Key said. ''SunTrade provides them with opportunity to target their products into Asia,'' he said. Mr Key was not making any predictions about the potential of the organisation, but maintained the portfolio of products already on the company's list showed a promise in Asia, especially as the open systems market in the region was one of the industry's fastest growing sectors. Mr David Tam, Sun Microsystems Australia's manager of partnership and government programmes, said the company had already sold an estimated A$20 million to A$30 million (HK$108 million to HK$162 million) worth of Australian software overseas, primarily to North America, Europe and New Zealand. ''We work with more than 200 software companies in Australia, and at any one time there would be something like 50 to 60 that are actively developing products for Sun,'' Mr Tam said. ''We go through those and select the ones we feel have a future in the Asian markets and who also have the inclination to export,'' he said. In the immediate future, SunTrade is working closely with the various Sun offices through Asia in establishing a network of value-added resellers through the region. Mr Key said SunTrade could eventually become a conduit for Asian companies that needed systems developed, but who had been hampered by the programming skills shortage in the region. The company has a dozen product categories that it will address in Asia. The most promising for the region will be in banking and finance, construction, transportation, material and maintenance management, and manufacturing and distribution. He said the Queensland government had been keen to help fund the project, through QIDC, because it was actively trying to promote Queensland as a centre for information technology. ''Queensland is very focused at the moment in their development of the IT industry,'' Mr Key said. ''There is an opportunity to have Southeast Queensland develop into a centre for IT in Australia, and that is what they are aiming to achieve,'' he said.