Under ChaFTA, 93% of Australian products enter China duty-free or at preferential tariff rates. This is designed to enhance Australian exporters’ competencies in China and boost export to China.
However, China is a diverse and fast-moving target. The changing economic landscape in the global market is adding complexity for Australian businesses’ engagement with this second-largest economy in the world and Australia’s number one trading partner. What are their implications for Australian businesses? What are the challenges and opportunities? How do Australian businesses tackle the complex situation and thrive in China?
Charisse Gray raised these questions at her recent interview with Sara Cheng, Head of China Practice at Australian Business Consulting Solutions. Sara is a highly respected and widely recognised China business specialist in Australia. She is actively involved in the bilateral business community, serving as Vice President of the Australia China Business Council in NSW, is Asia Literacy Ambassador, and has worked on the City of Sydney’s Chinese New Year Advisory Board.
Charisse: Given the recent bilateral relationship being strained, and the current trade war between US and China, what are your thoughts on the outlook of the economic relationship between Australia and China?
Sara: The bilateral relationship seems to be strained on the surface, especially in the space of the diplomatic and political world. In the business world, Australia’s export to China grew by 37% in 2017, the largest surge since the signing of ChaFTA. Australian wine export to China grew by 61%, the highest among its export to all markets. Business sense talks here.
In the short term, the sensitive relationship does defer some business decisions. However, from the long-term perspective, what has underpinned the two decades of economic honeymoon between the two countries still exists, and is getting stronger.
China needs our supply of agricultural products, mining resources, advanced technology and services, and will keep Australia as a key supplier due to our competitive advantage in these fields in the global market. Vice versa, we need China. Over 80% of manufactured goods imported into Australia are from China. Our people enjoy the benefit of low cost provided by China’s scale of production.
China has been our number one trade partner for twelve consecutive years and contributed one-fourth of Australia’s global two-way trade which represents around 40% of Australia’s total GDP. We are one of the few OECD countries which are on trade surplus with China. The co-dependency exists and will stay for a long time.
As to the impact of the trade war between the US and China, we have noticed some Chinese businesses start to eye Australia as a backup of supply. A few Australian businesses are looking at the option of moving partial production from China to Australia, and then exporting to the US to avoid the loss from the trade war between the US and China.
Charisse: This is promising and interesting. With this backdrop, what are the key China opportunities for Australian businesses?
Sara: In the trade space, in the short to medium term, Australian consumer goods, especially food and beverage, health supplements, cosmetics, high-tech, education, and tourism will keep enjoying the benefit brought by the growing China market. On a longer timeline of five to 10 years, services, especially personal growth service and entertainment, specialised training programs, unique and tailored consumer goods, most advanced biotechnology, high-tech and financial services will enjoy a huge, growing and diverse market in China.
In the investment space, unique resources, and the most advanced technology are always chased by Chinese investors.