A recent trip to China has the board of the ACBC feeling optimistic about the China-Australia relationship, writes Chairman, Frank Tudor.
The ACBC Board of Directors travelled to Shanghai and Beijing between May 8 and May 13, 2012 for the inaugural meeting of Directors held in China followed by four days of high level consultations around the Australia-China bilateral relationship with Chinese government, banks, state owned enterprises, private owned enterprises and think tanks as well as in-country Australian diplomatic, trade and private sector stakeholders.
The breadth of dialogue provided the ACBC Board with a very current, comprehensive and informed picture of the Australia-China bilateral relationship.
The presence of almost the full national Board across the range of stakeholder discussions reflected the commitment of the ACBC to understanding all relevant elements of, and viewpoints around, the current bilateral relationship; and the importance of developing and maintaining critical relationships across the bilateral relationship – reflecting ACBC’s standing and continuing role as the premier organisation dedicated to Sino-Australian trade and investment ties.
The Board also met with both chambers and the ACBC looks forward to cooperating with the chambers as well as the newly established AustCham Greater China to establish mutually beneficial areas of cooperation across a range of areas of interest to our Members.
Consultations were held in Shanghai and Beijing to gain the very latest thinking drawn from a range of important and influential stakeholders including:
• Australian Consul General in Shanghai
• Austrade Country Manager – China
• Representatives in China from Australia State Governments (QLD, NSW, VIC & WA)
• Australian Ambassador to China and Australian Embassy Section Heads/Staff
• AustCham Shanghai
• AustCham Beijing
• Australia China Alumni Association
• China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP)
• State owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission
• Ministry of Commerce
• Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM)
• China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR)
• Investment Promotion Agency of Ministry of Commerce & Business (CIPA)
• Various SOEs and POEs with existing and planned investment in Australia
Throughout the course of our meetings it became clear that the bilateral relationship is in excellent health. There is a healthy flow of visits in both directions underpinning our increased terms of trade. Indeed, the ACBC has been privy to this first hand this year already hosting two high-level business dialogues with Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming and Guangdong CPC Secretary Wang Yang. The 40th anniversary celebrations are also an excellent positive talking point on both sides.
The Chinese Government has a high regard for Australia as a destination for outbound
investment and we are regarded as a safe, transparent and stable place to do business. We notedthe increased preparedness of Chinese government officials to speak openly and frankly on the bilateral relationship which will only bode well for both sides. Cultural issues for outbound Chinese investors remain a key issue but both sides are working hard at a government-to-government level as well as with companies to address these. Cultural differences will always create suspicion and greater understanding encourages acceptance and trust – this is a fundamental precursor to sustained mutually beneficial trade and investment relations.
Pictured: Australian Trade Minister, Craig Emerson with the Chinese ambassador to Australia, Mr Chen Yuming.
Perhaps the single biggest risk for Chinese investment in Australia is not one of government policy but one stemming from a misunderstanding of working dynamics in Australian social, corporate and government contexts. Infrastructure bottlenecks and labour shortages as well as issues related to time lapse of approvals are some of the most significant concerns related to investment in Australia. The bilateral MOU on infrastructure cooperation signed between Anthony Albanese and Chen Deming will hopefully go some way in addressing the former part of this equation.
Overall, the Board saw great confidence in the future of the bilateral relationship.
The national Board formally met in Shanghai and then again in Beijing with the Ambassador.
In addition to normal business items there was a strategic session around the Council’s in country presence and activities.
The breadth and quality of the stakeholder discussions arranged by ACBC Vice President Paul Glasson reinforced the importance and value of ACBC’s in-country presence and activities.
We look forward to further positive engagement in China over the months and years ahead as we further develop our relationships in-country. ■
July 20 – ACBC Queensland hosts “Doing Business with China…Successfully…in the Long Term!”
August 2 – ACBC Victoria hosts “The Hon. Martin Ferguson AM MP Address – In Celebration of 40th Anniversary Year of Diplomatic Relations Between Australia and China.”