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Melbourne: ChAFTA Anniversary Dinner - Ambassador's Remarks

24 November 2016

The Honorable Minister Philip Dalidakis,

The Honorable Minister Matthew Groom,

The Honorable Mr Andrew Robb, 

Dear Consul General Zhao Jian,

Dear President Paul Li, 

Dear President Ken Smith,

Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening!

I am delighted to attend the first anniversary dinner of the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) hosted by the China Chamber of Commerce in Australia (CCCA) Melbourne and ACBC Victoria. First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to all of you present at this evening’s event for your longstanding support and contribution to China-Australia relations, the economic and trade cooperation in particular.

In 2014, President Xi Jinping's state visit to Australia marked an important milestone in the history of China-Australia relations. A major achievement of the visit was the announcement of the substantive conclusion of the ChAFTA negotiations. With the joint efforts of the two sides, the Agreement was finally signed in June 2015 and its implementation began in December the same year. ChAFTA is a comprehensive, high-quality free trade agreement of balanced interests for China and Australia, representing a new historical height of our bilateral relations and pragmatic cooperation. If ChAFTA was like a newborn baby, then it will soon have its very first birthday.

Over the past year, the implementation of ChAFTA has injected new impetus into trade and investment between the two countries. Tariffs have already been cut two times, providing mutual benefits to both countries. Exports of Australian health products, cherries, dairy products, wine and citrus to China have significantly increased by 900%, 99%, 70%, 51% and 33% respectively, with China becoming the largest export market for Australian wine. In 2016, investment from China in Australia increased substantially in such sectors as agriculture and real estate. Major Chinese financial institutions are exploring new business opportunities here, with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, for example, opening its new branch in Brisbane. Cooperation between China and Australia is also increasing in the area of innovation and creativity. Recently, China and Australia started to establish the Torch Innovation Park in the University of New South Wales for the incubation of innovative enterprises with an investment of more than AUD100 million. The Park is expected to become a new bright spot in the innovation-focused investment cooperation between the two countries.

ChAFTA, while facilitating the flow of commodities, goods, services and capital, has also greatly strengthened people-to-people links. Over the past year, China Xiamen Airlines have launched direct flights to Melbourne and Sydney, with China Eastern Airlines adding a new route. Currently, in high-season, the number of flights of Chinese airlines between China and Australia has reached 172 a week. Qantas, a major Australian airline, is also about to relaunch its non-stop flight service to Beijing.The number of visitors and students from China reached a historical high of 1.16 million and 176,000, up by 20.7% and 17% respectively. This year, the number of Australian students heading for China, under the ‘New Colombo Plan’ initiated by the Australian Government, has hit a record high of over one thousand. China has become the largest destination country of this program. We welcome more Australian tourists and students to travel to and study in China. The Chinese Embassy and consulates general in Australia will do their best to offer necessary assistance. 

As the first anniversary of ChAFTA draws near, it’s time to reflect on the success of the Agreement and the future opportunities it creates for both countries. China is willing to work with Australia to step up efforts to promote ChAFTA, and further implement the Agreement in such areas as investment, services, agriculture and facilitating people’s movement so that even greater benefits could be reaped from ChAFTA and delivered to people in both countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As China and Australia have worked together with ChAFTA, the two countries’ joint involvement in the development of the Belt and Road Initiative will also create significant new opportunities for bilateral economic cooperation and trade. As we know, in 2013, President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road Initiative, that is, the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ and the ‘21st Century Maritime Silk Road’. The international community has followed the Initiative with great interest and positive responses. 

The Belt and Road Initiative involves promoting unimpeded trade, facilities connectivity, financial integration, people-to-people bonds and policy coordination. Guided by the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and sharing benefits, the Initiative aims to share China’s development opportunities with countries along the routes and bring about common prosperity. The Belt and Road Initiative is not a one-man show of China, but a chorus involving all countries along the routes. 

Over the past three years, the Belt and Road Initiative has made good progress. More than 100 countries and international organisations have now joined and expressed support for the Initiative. China has signed cooperation agreements with more than 30 countries to jointly implement the Initiative, and engaged in international production capacity cooperation with more than 20 countries. The United Nations and many other international organizations are also positive towards the Initiative. The financial cooperation continues to deepen with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank up and running and the Silk Road Fund in place. A number of landmark projects are being implemented on the ground. The Initiative has started from scratch and come a long way, covering a wider range of areas. It has beaten expectations in the pace of its development and in what it has achieved.

In the next phase, the focus of the Belt and Road Imitative is to promote cross-border connectivity, to enhance trade and investment cooperation and to facilitate international production capacity and equipment manufacturing cooperation. According to the Asian Development Bank’s estimates, by 2020 the annual demand for infrastructure investment for Asia alone will be as high as USD730 billion. Stronger infrastructure connectivity and trade and investment cooperation represent a shared aspiration of all countries. In the next five years, China's additional investment overseas will reach USD750 billion, which will have an important role to play in implementing the Belt and Road Initiative. 

In his speech to the Australian Parliament in 2014, President Xi Jinping noted that ‘Oceania is a natural extension of the ancient maritime Silk Road and China welcomes Australia’s participation in the 21st-centry maritime Silk Road’. During the 2015 China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue, the two sides agreed on building synergy between China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Australia’s plan on Developing Northern Australia, with a working group set up to explore the possibilities. 

Local governments and business communities in Australia have expressed a keen interest in the Belt and Road Initiative. In 2016, a non-governmental organization, known as the Australia China OBOR Initiative, was established and it released a report entitled China’s One Belt One Road. Opportunities for Australian Industry. Last month, Mr Andrew Robb led a delegation of representatives from Australian business communities and think-tanks to visit China, and had in-depth discussions with relevant Chinese government departments on how China and Australia can cooperate in developing the Belt and Road Initiative. 

The economies of China and Australia are highly complementary, with huge cooperation potentials under the Belt and Road Initiative. We hope the two sides will build greater synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the plan on Developing Northern Australia, and more early harvests could be delivered. China and Australia could also further advance cooperation in such areas as infrastructure construction, production capacity, agriculture, finance and innovation, and actively explore possibilities of jointly developing third-party markets. China is willing to work with Australia to translate the significant cooperation opportunities brought by the Belt and Road Initiative into greater tangible benefits for both peoples.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

China and Victoria have a long history of friendly exchanges. In recent years, China-Victoria relations have grown closer and closer thanks to the commitment and support of Premier Daniel Andrews and people from the wider communities of the two countries. The Hon. Governor Linda Dessau, the Hon. Premier Daniel Andrews and other cabinet members paid very successful and fruitful visits to China this year. Last April, Victoria's New China Strategy proposed developing Victoria into China’s gateway to Australia, making a very encouraging blueprint for comprehensive cooperation between the two sides. China and Victoria enjoy close economic and trade relations and vibrant educational, scientific and people-to-people exchanges. China has been Victoria's largest trading partner and the largest source of overseas students for years. China has also emerged as the largest revenue source of international tourism for Victoria. In the first half of this year, Victoria's export and trade volumes with China grew by approximately 7% and 8% respectively. Trade with China accounted for about a quarter of Victoria’s international trade. Each year, Victoria makes arrangements for its promising youth leaders to visit China, support student exchanges and fund young Australians to study in China. Activities like the Chinese New Year celebrations and the Chinese New Year concert by world-renowned composer and conductor Tan Dun are very well received by the Victorian people and have become a major highlight of Victoria's multiculturalism. 

As Premier Andrews has wisely said that China-Australia relationship should be not only “about purchases and transactions”, but also about partnerships and trust. I believe that as long as the two sides seize the opportunities of ChAFTA and the Belt and Road Initiative, the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Australia will be further enhanced, and the mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries, including the friendly cooperation between China and Victoria, will surely open up new horizons.