Launch of Australian Brands in China Report
It’s great to be here with you for the Australia China Business Council’s annual networking day in Parliament House. For me, this is the first opportunity as the nation’s Trade Minister to speak, at this important annual event. I trust, John, that the traffic getting here in Canberra wasn’t quite as challenging as it was in Shanghai when we caught up at Rio’s headquarters in early November, as John referenced just before.
I do congratulate the Council for building this event over many years now, and for the impressive work of its members in ensuring year-round contribution to the building and enhancement of the Australia-China relationship.
The success of this networking day underscores the vital place that personal ties have in strengthening the connection between our two nations.
We are here today because we value the enduring partnership between Australia and China. It is a deep relationship with a long history. More than 1.2 million people of Chinese ancestry live here in Australia. Our students now travel to each other’s countries not just for a great and rich educational experience but to gain a deeper and abiding understanding of the cultural nuances in each nation that, once understood, dispel misunderstandings and can draw us closer together. Our scientists work together to expand the boundaries of human knowledge. We visit each other’s tourist attractions and enjoy each other’s food and cuisine. We have more than 100 sister city and sister state relationships stretching back over more than 40 years.
We don’t always agree, just as with any country. But it remains – as Ambassador Cheng just said – in the interests of both nations to embrace cooperation that is mutually beneficial. We work in our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, formalised in 2014, to achieve these objectives.
The complementarities of our economies make us natural trading partners. China is Australia’s largest two-way trading partner by a big margin and we expect it to remain so well into the foreseeable future. The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement has significantly increased and enhanced economic cooperation. Two-way goods and services trade has risen some 42 per cent since ChAFTA came into force at the end of 2015 to reach a record high of $215 billion in 2018.
This agreement has put Australia in an enviable position in terms of access to the Chinese market for goods and services. Both countries have implemented their tariff commitments on schedule. The vast majority of Australian products now enter China tariff-free, and all Chinese products come into Australia with zero tariffs. Australia is China’s 7th largest source of imports. Many of these goods contribute to China’s own manufacturing base and economic growth.
Some suggested at the time that China may not be able to conclude or deliver on a comprehensive FTA like ChAFTA. However, the success of ChAFTA is a further demonstration of the many benefits delivered to China, our region and the world from China’s 40 years of opening and reform. Australia encourages the continued embrace of policies that are consistent with the principles of opening and reform, which have already delivered such great benefits to so many.