7th Australia-China CEO Roundtable

Prime Minister

Premier Li

Minister Wang

Minister for Trade and Tourism, Don Farrell

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Madeleine King

Premier Roger Cook

I’m delighted to be here in Western Australia, where I am almost a local, I think, Premier, with my engagement here with this great state.

I make the point that whilst China is the destination, overwhelmingly above other countries, bigger than the second, third and fourth destination for Australia’s exports. 75 per cent of those exports are from the great state of Western Australia.

Making major contribution to our national economy, but also to the growth and expansion and industrialisation that we have seen in the People’s Republic of China over recent decades.

I want to thank our co-chairs, Bran Black of the Business Council of Australia and Zhao Huan, for their insights and for all the hard work that you have done to bring this roundtable together of significant business leaders from both of our nations.

Behind every thriving business in this room, right across the sectors you represent, is optimism and determination.

The optimism to seek new markets and new opportunities.

These are the qualities that have underwritten half a century of business-to-business connections between Australia and China.

Ever since the Whitlam Government had the foresight to recognise the People’s Republic of China, something that we commemorated last year, the 50th anniversary, with my visit for the resumption of the leader to leader dialogues when I visited not just Beijing for those meetings, but importantly, at the invitation of Premier Li to the world’s most significant trade event, which is held in Shanghai.

And I took a number of business leaders, including many of you in this room, from Australia to that trade event there in Shanghai, of which there were literally hundreds of businesses from Australia represented. And literally many hundreds of millions of dollars of deals done while that trade event was going on.

These are the bonds that are strengthened by the aspiration and contribution of our remarkable Chinese Australian community, some 1.4 million people strong, and we will engage with them at a luncheon after this event, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

Our ties have endured and evolved through decades of profound growth and change – both within our nations and across our region.

For over fifty years now, Australian businesses, resources and ideas have helped build and power and shape China’s extraordinary economic transformation.

An economic transformation which we must acknowledge has lifted more people out of poverty in recent decades than any nation has achieved in human history. A remarkable achievement of the people and the government of China.

This has also of course benefited Australian companies and Australian workers who have shared from the benefits because of our trade.

The economic ties between Australia and China rely on a regional and global architecture that enables fair trade, drives innovation and facilitates those vital personal and cultural connections nourished by education and tourism and, of course, business.

That’s why our Government has made it a priority to invest in our capabilities and invest in our relationships.

Because we know the prosperity that has benefited all of us, depends on peace and stability built by all of us.

A security upheld by sovereignty and shaped by dialogue.

The capacity to acknowledge our differences and manage our disagreements by talking to each other – government to government, leader to leader.

And I appreciate the personal relationship with my friend, the Premier, that we have developed over many meetings, just as our respective Trade Ministers have developed such an important relationship over the two years in which I’ve had the privilege of being Prime Minister of Australia.

Of course, dialogue is more than just a critical diplomatic pressure valve.

It is also an essential element in the continued success of so many firms in this room.

That’s what the resumption of this Roundtable represents.

Business leaders in China and Australia engaging more closely, co-operating in areas of shared interest and gaining a new sense of the opportunities that are there to be seized.

We know the scale of what we can achieve together.

And last year in Shanghai, at the very crowded room I must say Mr Premier, where I think it was a room that probably fitted three hundred people but we managed to fit six hundred people in there, because there was such an enthusiasm from the Australian and the Chinese business community for the engagement that was taking place there.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner and since the Free Trade Agreement came into force in 2015, our goods and services exports to China have more than doubled, and Chinese exports to Australia have increased by 76 per cent.

And we can already see the positive difference that clearing away the recent trade impediments has made, for both our nations.

Australian farmers, growers, producers, miners and exporters are benefiting from being able to sell their cotton, copper, coal, timber, oat and hay, barley and wine to China again.

Equally, Chinese consumers and businesses are benefiting from being able to buy these high-quality, high-value Australian exports.

Once again a win-win for both of our nations.

It is fitting that we gather to discuss the future strength of Australia and China’s trade and business ties, here in Western Australia.

A state home to such a proud and dynamic Chinese community – and a state whose resources and expertise have played such a pivotal role in China’s modernisation.

Three quarters of Australia’s exports to China come from here in WA.

And nearly 60 per cent of everything that this state exports, goes to one nation, it goes to China.

In every sense, WA has traded on its strengths: a skilled and educated workforce, a record of safety and reliability, abundant natural resources and world-class industry capabilities.

Our Government’s plan for a future made in Australia is about building on this success.

Investing in our nation’s capacity to cater to growing global and national demand for the components and expertise essential to clean energy technology and future industries.

Moving Australia up the international value chain.

Processing, refining and manufacturing more green metals and critical minerals here.

And, through our exports, helping China and other nations in our region meet their net zero commitments.

Let me be clear: our commitment to investing in local manufacturing doesn’t mean cutting trade ties or pulling-up the economic drawbridge. Far from it.

International partnerships and the inflow of foreign investment will continue to be crucial for Australia as we modernise and diversify our economy, even as we take steps to secure our economic sovereignty and build resilience in sectors that are vital to our national interest.

Making more things here in Australia is about ensuring our businesses can sell a wider range of products to a broader range of markets.

Our plan is about Australia building on our strengths, engaging in our region and succeeding on our terms.

And there is so much for Australia and China to gain from working together including in the global shift to clean energy, advances in manufacturing supply chains and the research and innovation that will drive this progress.

That’s why we must work together, and that’s why this forum is so important going forward. And that’s why I was very pleased to commit with Premier Li to expand engagement on climate change, energy and environment when I visited Beijing in November last year.

The agreements the Premier and I signed yesterday in Canberra: on climate action, education and research, the further implementation of our free trade agreement and the resumption of high-level economic dialogue between our governments will all provide a stronger foundation for closer and more constructive co-operation.

Friends

The resumption of this roundtable is yet another encouraging sign of the stabilisation of the relationship between our two great nations.

It reflects the commitment to dialogue that Australia and China can use to manage our different views and advance our common interests.

This event also speaks for the determination and optimism that we must draw on to meet the challenges of this moment – and build for the opportunities ahead.

The determination to preserve peace, act on climate change, embrace new technologies and build new co-operation.

And the optimism that recognises the value of deeper understanding – the power of personal connections and the essential value of talking to each other and learning from each other.

Let us draw on that determination, go forward with that optimism and work to achieve greater shared success into the future.

For Australia, for China, for the Indo-Pacific and for all who call our region home.

/Public Release. View in full here.