AustCham Beijing: Long-term strategies for long term relationships

AustCham Beijing’s newly appointed chair, Tracy Colgan, discusses the important role of the Australian Chambers of Commerce in China in facilitating business success in the Australia-China relationship.

Just as I joined my Chinese counterparts as a participant in an official bi-lateral forum held in Beijing last November to watch the television announcement of the new Chinese leadership, I spent this year’s Australian Election Day evening with the Australian community, and Chinese guests from government and business, to watch the coverage of the 2013 Federal Election.

As we watched the results coming in, one of our Chinese guests, an old friend, asked me what the result would mean for the Australia-China relationship: would this herald a change in direction? The incoming government will be inheriting enormous goodwill, developed over a 40-plus year history of official engagement, forged from contributions from both sides of politics, and from public and private spheres in both China and Australia. Recent milestones, including the introduction of direct trading of the RMB/AUD and the announcement of an annual top-level exchange between our senior leaders, are indicative of the momentum.

Our new government has already publically stated that China is a policy priority, and an FTA with China is high on its agenda, and so I was happy to tell my friend we can all look forward to continued commitment to building positive bilateral relationship. 

AustCham is uniquely placed to inform the policy debate around, and engage participants in, the economic engagement between Australia and China. As people working on the ground in China, our members are an invaluable resource, with a distinct and pragmatic perspective on the realities of doing business in China and with Chinese organisations. Indeed, AustCham and our members can contribute a broad network that extends to local and Australian business communities and government organizations, not only based in China, but also beyond, to those in Australia. It is a dynamic platform. 

Therefore, I was very pleased to be able to join my Beijing Board colleague Brendan Mason, and the Chairs and representatives of the Shanghai and Guangzhou AustCham boards in September in Guangzhou for the first meeting of the AustCham Greater China Council. That we now have an active platform is an important step, laying the foundation for the Chambers to work together on key national initiatives, in the areas of advocacy and policy development and other areas of common interest. The progress to date is a testament to the work put in by the directors of successive regional boards, and I would like to acknowledge their contribution.

In Beijing, we have an active calendar in the lead up to the end of the year. Highlight events included a lunch reception for the Treasurer of Western Australia, Hon Troy Buswell MLA, which was very well attended, and our annual AustCham Great Aussie BBQ. The BBQ was a great success – Beijing did us proud weather-wise, and the community was out in force.

Our second Collaboration Dinner is in the planning for the end of November. Last year’s event was well received, with representatives from all major ministries and organizations joining our members to celebrate a wonderful year of effective collaboration. We aim to exceed expectations this year and look forward to joining with colleagues from the other Chambers to showcase our successes.

In the coming months we also have plans for a series of provincial government trips with our members. These will be announced in due course. We are also planning a series of events highlighting issues around inward and outward investment. Please look to our website for details as they emerge. Many of our members are involved in Chinese outward investment into Australia, and they can expect to see targeted events focusing on industries of interest, and of course the Chamber is a primary resource for Australian companies investing in China, and we will continue to hold relevant events throughout the year. AustCham BJ Great Aussie BBQ 2013 web

The AustCham Beijing Board and staff will be looking for opportunities to brief members on its activity around events, advocacy and working groups, and we encourage members to be in contact with their directors or the staff with feedback on the type of events they would like to see hosted by the Chamber. In the same way the forum last November and the election night event provided me with an important opportunity to recognize shared experiences in conversation with old friends, Austcham too provides its members with the chance to deepen their understanding through engagement, with friends both new and old. This is part of delivering on our mission: to promote Australian business and AustCham member interests in China by being an effective source of information, connections and representation.

Pictured: AustCham Beijing Director, Dave Garnier with Tim White (Australian cricket team captain) and James Toppings (British cricket team captain), at the AustCham Beijing annual Great Aussie BBQ in September.

*To learn more about AustCham Beijing and for a full listing of upcoming Chamber events, visit: www.austcham.org

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