The afternoon briefing served as a mutually beneficial platform for our guests to hear from the new Victorian commissioner to Greater China as well as providing an overview of the work of ACBC Victoria Working Groups through presentations by the Chairs and an exchange information through Q & A. Brett valued the wide-ranging commentary from across the sectors.
Brett emphasised the quality work that the Victorian government and ACBC does in engaging with China economically and expressed his desire to build upon structures already in place. Victorian business objectives and strategies will be a focal point of post-COVID-19 re-engagement and Brett is keen to work collaboratively with Victorian businesses when he’s on the ground in China.
Following the success and popularity of this event and once Brett has settled into Shanghai life, we will look to have a regular China update event with him to ensure Victorian business can be looped-in with the VGTI work in China thereby help to support and grow the Victoria-China economic partnership.
Some key takeaways from the event organised by sector are as follows:
Agribusiness & Food
- The ACBC Agribusiness & Food Working Group aims to help improve clear communications between rural Australia and China.
- Promising growth opportunities in oilseeds, fruits and nuts – more substantial performance than expected.
- Grain and meat exports suffering.
- Work is being done to look at imports from China – An aspect of the trade relationship that is often overlooked.
- Tariffs and export quota arrangements can have very significant impact however are often out of line of sight for exporters.
- Renewed focus on innovation.
- Investment is an important aspect to the growing agribusiness sector – with new FIRB regulations having significant impacts.
- BRI very topical in the industry. The BRI forum planned by ACBC Vic was postponed due to COVID-19.
- BRI could see competition coming from new international markets – Not too much of a concern given the high-grade quality of Australian agriculture exports that puts us in a top tier market.
China Capital Markets
- Australian understanding of Chinese capital markets generally quite low.
- How well prepared are Australian asset managers and institutional investors to the dynamic shifts to China’s financial markets, particularly the RMB.
- Australia has the best retirement income system in Asia, China is fascinated by this.
Energy & Resources
- Industry is generally ok however long delays in investments are putting some projects on hold.
- Coking coal exports are moving ahead.
- A lot of internal shifts within the mining sector as try to normalise – restructures, mergers, acquisitions etc.
- Relatively large comeback for entire sector forecasted for 2021.
Health & Medical Research
- Aus-China health sectors remain highly complementary.
- China is the second largest health market in the world and Australia is ranked number 2 for health systems.
- Victoria is well known for medical both medical R&D and new IP. There are numerous opportunities for collaboration.
- The Australia China Health Accelerator (ACHA) serves as platform for the bilateral medical-focussed conversations around COVID-19.
- Medical masks and gloves were a critical Chinese assistance that was provided to Australia.
- Increased consumer focus globally on products with health benefits. Family health focus in China.
- Aged care – market is growing, Australia has a lot of quality experience.
- Hospital care – introduced activity-based funding.
- China remains one of the largest markets for digital health, medical devices and pharmaceuticals.
- China has the ability to assist health start-ups with capital funding, etc.
- Chinese Health AI, digihealth and medical device companies are maturing and going international – Australia is the ideal entry market point – A possibility for us to become a medical hub/HQ for international health.
- The complexity of foreign investment rules can be a barrier to foreign health businesses and bilateral collaboration.
Tourism & Visitor Experience
- Heavily affected industry – International borders are closed to any inbound tourism, from China or otherwise.
- Lack of tourist numbers presents opportunities to innovate and fix things that weren’t perfect.
- F1 and fashion festival cancelled, Spring Carnival and Australian Open also looking uncertain.
- Challenges: China issued a travel warning against Australia
- Some intrastate tourism over the last few weeks
- Challenges: Victorian borders closed to interstate visitors from midnight Tuesday.
- The Chinese community are keen to travel domestically
- Jobkeeper and some government programs have assisted many businesses to stay afloat, including the Victorian Government Tourism Accommodation Support Program and Local Lockdowns Business support program.
- Now halfway through Victorian school holidays with no timeline yet on when things will open up again.
- Victorian tourism businesses are resilient and will embrace a reopening to international arrivals, potentially in the 1st quarter next year at the earliest. Tourism Australia and Visit Victoria are working in the background to have campaigns ready for when we can welcome international arrivals from China again
- Campaign “Australia welcomes you” was launched earlier this month on behalf of Universities and businesses, including tourism on Weibo, Wechat and other channels
- How do we prepare for Chinese guests when the borders reopen?
- How will the visitor demographics change? Will they be coming from new regions or societal groups?
- Will Victoria’s value proposition for Chinese tourists remain the same?
- What can we do to improve our offering?
Education & Training
- Education sector heavily involved in the Australia Welcomes You campaign to encourage Australian students/tourists to return to Australia when borders re-open.
- Challenges – Students under 18 being unable to return.
- A fear that UK, USA and Canada will take returning students before Australia. Impact of this on Chinese decision remains to be seen as COVID-19 situations evolve.
- A growing trend for Chinese students to choose to study in the region (Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam etc.).
- Victorian government looking at new engagement strategies to secure the future of international students in Victoria – Speaking to Chinese students as well as the parents.
- Brett is satisfied that as long as Chinese families can still afford to educate their child(ren) overseas, we will see a return of international students to Victorian high schools and universities.