Well, good afternoon, it's terrific to be here, and to all of you that have come and taken the time out of your day to be here and reflect on Australian business with China and Chinese business with Australia.
A very warm welcome to Parliament House, I’m delighted to hear that it's gone well.
I'm at a little bit of a disadvantage though because coming at the end of the day to do the summation, when I haven't had the chance to sit here as all of you have, makes it a little more challenging for me.
But what this is an opportunity to do, though, is perhaps to provide a summary of where I see our bilateral relationship.
And in particular, I will reflect on that in relation to our trade and investment relationship.
And given that in the room today we've got representatives, not exclusively, but in the main, those of you involved in the business commerce investment, I'm very happy to do so.
It's important to recognize, as you've no doubt heard multiple times today, that, notwithstanding the fact that there are, from time to time, some differences of view, as you would rightly expect to be the case, our trade and investment relationship between Australia and China is one that's broad, and one that's deep.
And it builds on the building blocks that this Government has put in place now for some time.
It has been opened by previous governments as well, and in that vein I acknowledge Craig Emerson, who was here but has now popped out.
Craig's a former Trade Minister with whom I've got a good relationship, and we have worked in the past, closer together, and I'm very pleased to continue to support work that Craig does in that vein as well.
But in terms of the bilateral relationship between the ACBC, or I should say between China and Australia in terms of the ACBC, I can say that it is a broad and deep relationship.
But we continue to see really strong growth. Really strong growth.
And notwithstanding the characterization, that we have seen, unfortunately, on a relatively consistent basis, in Australian media over the past several weeks, the fact is, trade relationship is strong.
Now I recognize that we have had some difficulties in some sectors.
I've had, for example, elements of the wine industry and in particular, I mentioned TWE who also is a public company gone to the market, and spoken about some of the additional paperwork that’s been asked of them.
But I can also say that since Michael Clarke, the CEO of Treasury Wine Estates, raised those concerns directly with me, in a telephone conversation several weeks ago, we have been able to engage with Chinese authorities and to resolve that issue.
And that's been the only company that has raised matters directly with me. My office is aware of a couple of other businesses that have experienced some delays because of requests for additional paperwork.
But what I understand from our Beijing Post, as well as from other comments that have been made by key bodies in the industry, is that those, too, have been resolved.
And that is the point that I've focused on.
Because in many respects that point reflects the fact that we have an excellent working relationship, and I couldn't help but notice the MFA made comments recently to speak about the bilateral relationship.
So the MFA and China talked about it. I speak about it as Trade and Investment Minister.
We speak about how we are engaging in a constructive way and why we continue to see great growth in terms of volume and value of exports between us both.
But that, unfortunately, is not the focus of the stories.
The focus of the stories tend to dwell on the occasional irritant that we see, and on the occasional difference.
And in that vein, I reflect on a lunch that I had recently with my friend, Ambassador Cheng, when he travelled to the Gold Coast for us to be able to sit down and break bread together.
And to speak about what the two of us were hoping to achieve in terms of the bilateral relationship.
Neither of us stepping back from the fact that there were instances of differences of opinion, including for example, the South China Sea.
But both acknowledging that where there are differences of opinion, provided we're respectful and mindful of each other's national sovereignty, provided we're respectful and mindful of the fact that we will have different points of view from time to time, we can engage in robust trade and investment, broad trade and investment, healthy trade and investment, that is for the mutual benefit of both China and Australia.
And I made the point, with respect to the Coalition, that we have sought to do that, in particular, through the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
And that has seen not only in relation to our bilateral relationship under that agreement, but also spilled over into other agreements between us.
And for me as Tourism Minister, of course, I will touch upon the fact that we have an open capacity, liberalized air services agreement between China and Australia as well.
And in fact, it's that open capacity agreement, I think the most liberalized that China has ever done with another country, but also as a testament to the strength of our bilateral relationship.
And that's helping to drive now more than 1.4 million Chinese tourists to Australia, which builds on the strength as well of the relationship that we have in terms of Chinese students that come to Australia to study.
And I've been particularly pleased to observe, over the past year or two, comments that President Xi Jinping has made both at Davos as well at the Belt and Road Forum, which I attended.
Comments which were built upon in Boao and comments which were also expanded upon at the People's Congress, where he spoke about his vision for China.
And the desire that China has to continue to open itself up to the world, to drive investment and to seek continued progress.
In that vein, I'm pleased to say that Australia should be a partner in that journey.
The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement is but one building block, an important one, but it is but one building block.
So what I want to do as Trade and Investment Minister is make sure we provide you with the policy framework that all of you need as ACBC, to be able to continue to build on those people-to-people links, to build on that trade relationship, and to build on that investment relationship.
And for Australia and China to be able to do that together, I am very confident that in the years ahead we'll continue to see a relationship that further strengthens.
Ultimately, all of us invested in a stable, peaceful, and prosperous region.
And like President Xi, I hold the view that, where there is trade and investment, where there's people links, commercial links, there will be stability, prosperity, and peace.
And that is, ultimately, our objective.
This comes at a time when we continue to see a lot of tumult in the global trade environment.
It comes at a time where we've seen action and reaction from a number of countries with respect to trade barriers.
And on every occasion, it's my view that the best things that China and Australia could do is to continue to, not only speak about what we can do together to drive trade and investment, but also look at the actions we can take to further enhance trade and investment.
I was particularly pleased when Premier Li announced, for example, last year as part of the visit, that there would be opportunities for additional Australian plants to be licensed for the export of chilled beef.
I'd cite that as a good example of what we can do together, to continue to send the message that we are both countries committed to liberalising trade and investment, recognising that that will help to drive prosperity between our people.
And when you consider that there are more than 1 million Australians that claim Chinese heritage and when you look at the impact of the Chinese community on the Australian community, the rich contribution it’s made to Australia's culture, to our way of life, you can certainly understand why it's rapidly now become the second most spoken language in Australia after English, and another good building block for us to continue to explore opportunities for our people-to-people links to drive our investment links and, of course, our trade links.
So, could I say that we will continue to have, from time-to-time, differences of opinion. I'm not afraid of differences of opinion. I embrace differences of opinion.
What I want to make sure that we do is to continue to provide additional ballast for the arguments that I make, for the arguments that China make about ways in which we can work together to make sure that this bilateral relationship, not only goes from strength to strength, but also can help to reinforce the message that we give to the world about how we can use trade and investment to reduce barriers and to drive a stronger relationship.
The very best way to do that is to demonstrate, through action, our commitment to this trade and investment relationship.
And that means making sure that action matches rhetoric. And if we do that we'll achieve success.
Ultimately, we're all invested, as I've said, in the civility, peace, and prosperity of this region, and I look forward to walking down this pathway together with China.
- Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
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