Minister of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China, Zhong Shan hosted the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, for the 15th Joint Ministerial Economic Commission (JMEC) on 15 September 2017 in Beijing.

Ministers agreed that, more than thirty years after it was first established, JMEC remains an important part of the bilateral economic and trade architecture. With China and Australia marking their 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties in 2017, JMEC plays an important role in developing and consolidating the bilateral relationship. Ministers noted that since the first JMEC was held in 1986, the trade and economic relationship between Australia and China has transformed, with two-way trade growing over 60 times to reach more than A$155 billion in 2016 (USD 107.8 billion in 2016). The 14 JMEC meetings to date have made great contributions to the development of bilateral trade and economic relations.

In November 2014, China’s President Xi Jinping paid a successful visit to Australia, during which leaders of the two countries upgraded the China-Australia relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership, and announced the substantial conclusion of the ChAFTA negotiations. Both sides welcomed the milestones achieved and collaboration undertaken since then. Highlights included:

  • Entry into force of ChAFTA on 20 December 2015
  • Conclusion of a landmark open market bilateral Air Services Agreement (December 2016)
  • Inaugural meeting of the ChAFTA Joint Commission (February 2017)
  • Announcement by Prime Minister Turnbull and Premier Li Keqiang to commence the reviews of ChAFTA Chapter on Trade in Services, Chapter on Investment and the MOU on the Investment Facilitation Arrangement (March 2017)
  • Minister Ciobo’s participation in the Belt and Road Forum and Australia’s support of China’s Initiative on Promoting Unimpeded Trade Cooperation along the Belt and Road (May 2017)

Ministers noted that since ChAFTA was signed and entered into force in 2015 there have been three rounds of tariff cuts. Both sides agreed implementation of ChAFTA has been successful, with high rates of utilisation by exporters of over 85 per cent on both sides. Investment in both directions has continued to flourish.

Ministers acknowledged the strong economic complementarities between China and Australia, and noted the role ChAFTA is playing in deepening and diversifying the trade and investment relationship. Both sides shared the view that not only had ChAFTA ushered in a new era in the bilateral trade and investment relationship, but that it continued to demonstrate, for the region and beyond, the opportunities and benefits of trade liberalisation.

Ministers discussed two-way investment as well as regional and global trade and economic issues. They discussed how Australia and China can work together in bilateral, regional and multilateral contexts to harness the full benefits of open markets and defend the multilateral, rules-based trading system that has benefitted both countries.

Both sides provided an update on the latest developments in their respective trade and investment policies. Ministers agreed to work actively to adopt measures to boost bilateral trade and investment and enhance commercial cooperation in third markets, including in relation to China’s “Belt and Road” initiative. Australia will participate in the inaugural China International Import Expo.

Ministers discussed the upcoming reviews of the ChAFTA services and investment chapters and the Investment Facilitation Arrangement MOU. They agreed the reviews would commence by the end of the year.

Ministers noted that the bilateral trade relationship continues to evolve and expand into new areas and that new technologies and innovation provided collaborative trade and investment opportunities. E-commerce between Australia and China is growing rapidly, with great potential for future growth and innovative collaboration. Minister Zhong and Minister Ciobo signed a Memorandum of Understanding on e-commerce cooperation which creates a framework under JMEC to enhance dialogue and practical cooperation on e-commerce.

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