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Media Release: ACBC National President Welcomes New FutureAsia Policy

04 October 2017

The Australia China Business Council (ACBC) welcomes the Federal Opposition’s new plan for engagement with Asia—FutureAsia.

In his announcement of the plan Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen says ‘Australia needs a step change in our economic relationship with Asia.’  He notes that ‘Asian economies are changing, and Australia isn’t keeping up’ and that ‘for too long, Australia's engagement with Asia has been in cruise control.’

He also emphasises the importance of Australia’s largest trading partner, China.  ACBC has long insisted that the return of China to a position of economic pre-eminence in the world is the defining geopolitical shift of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.  It is the single most important global factor behind Australia’s strong economic performance over the last 26 years—a period which has seen us overtake The Netherlands as holders of the world record for the longest ever period of unbroken economic growth.

ACBC has also warned that as China’s growth profile changes, so must Australia’s economic relationship with China shift from a merely transactional one based on ‘crops and rocks’ exports, towards more services trade, more partnerships and more investment in both directions.

Chris Bowen’s speech highlights a number of important proposed initiatives, including moves to increase Asia literacy on boards, to leverage the large Asian diasporas in Australia and the Australian diaspora across Asia, and to maintain an ‘open mind’ towards greater cooperation with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).  This last is particularly important.  BRI is one of the most ambitious and far-reaching infrastructure building plans the region has ever seen, and it is important for Australia to keep engaging constructively with it.  

I also welcome FutureAsia’s acknowledgement of the value of multilateralism at a time when the world is seeing a rise in populism and protectionism.  Chris Bowen notes that ‘with the failure of the TPP, both APEC and ASEAN would have greater, not lesser importance,’ and he calls the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ‘the single major trade negotiation opportunity underway anywhere in the world.’

FutureAsia is about deeper engagement to deal with the economic challenges and opportunities of our region, together with our neighbours, for mutual benefit.  ACBC welcomes this effort, and we look forward to seeing further details in time.

 

The Hon. John Brumby AO

National President, Australia China Business Council

 

For further information:

-       Helen Sawczak, National CEO, ACBC, +61(0)407 362 228