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Australian-Chinese links key to Oz role in 'Asian century'
Global Times | April 25, 2012 22:40
By Global Times
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Craig Emerson, Australian Minister for Trade and Competitiveness
Craig Emerson, Australian Minister for Trade and Competitiveness

Editor's Note: This year marks the 40th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between China and the Australia. China is Australia's biggest trading partner, and the economic relations between China and Australia are quite promising. How will relations develop in the future? Will Australia's foreign policy affect its trade? Global Times (GT) reporters Qiu Wei, Yu Jincui and Wen Ya talked to Craig Emerson (Emerson), Australian Minister for Trade and Competitiveness, on these issues.


GT: Some say Australia is very dependent on China. Do you think the trade relationship is sustainable?


Emerson: We have seen successful Australian government efforts to integrate the Australian economy into the Asian region in the Asian century, and China's size and growth is very important in the region. This is a deliberate policy. It was initially pursued by the whole government. It hasn't happened by accident, it hasn't happened by luck, it has happened by commitments by the leadership of both sides. It's a deliberate policy to lock Australia into the Asian region and the Asian century.


GT: What are Australia's priorities in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement negotiations? How can an initiative that doesn't include China contribute to regional trade and prosperity?


Emerson: It will have no impact on relations between China and Australia at all. We are going as hard as we can in the free trade negotiations; we are going as hard as we can in the World Trade Organization; we also utilize APEC where we possibly can to benefit the course of opening up markets. So the TPP is another vehicle for seeking to open up markets. So when there are opportunities to open up markets, Australia will be there. That's our attitude, it's not a matter of picking one or another, it's pursuing all opportunities to open markets, because we fundamentally believe that is the way ahead for greater prosperity and more jobs around the world.


GT: You said in late 2010 that you would re-embrace one of the Hawke-Keating Governments' principles of economic reform, namely "to maintain a clear separation between trade policy and foreign policy." Some argue that collaboration between Australia and the US to maximize the benefits of their strategic alliance may erode political trust between Canberra and Beijing, and therefore hinder trade. What do you reckon?


Emerson: Australia enjoys a very warm and friendly relationship with China and many other countries, but the content of the trade policy should not be determined by foreign policy, it should be determined by what is commercial interest to both countries. So it's a very simple proposition to keep them separate.


In respect to China, it happens we have a very close, warm, friendly relationship but we also seek to pursue the commercial interests of Australia with China as China does with Australia, but there is no particular value in overlapping trade policy and foreign policy without a good relationship on both fronts with China.


There will be no overflow of foreign policy consideration in trade policy. And there is no evidence that China is taking an adverse view of Australia.


GT:Australia has been a main supplier for China's minerals and energy needs. The Gillard Government will continue to do so. How would "old economy" forces, such as mining and agriculture, shape the shared future of the two countries?


Emerson: It will show increasing diversity of the commerical relationship between Australia and China. Mining and agriculture at the turn of the century were called the old economy, but it's an ambition of mine to make agriculture new economy, because we have enormous potential to cooperate with China. We can produce more food for the global market, this is something which China is very interested. I think we are in a position to make Australia a reliable supplier of food and help in meeting China's food security needs, just as what we have so in energy.


GT: In its 12th Five Year Plan, China has vows to reduce energy usage relative to GDP. What does this mean for Australia?


Emerson: This is good news in terms of carbon emissions. We are all seeking to play a part there, Australia is doing so through its market carbon pricing mechanism. China will be looking increasingly for lower energy emission sources. It could find natural gas, which is widely regarded as a transition fuel from a high carbon economy to a low carbon economy. We get close to working commercially again with China to develop those resources.


In the Five Year Plan there is an emphasis on services. I led a mission to China in Augst last year when we visited major provincial centers and we had hudrends of business representatives on that mission. We got a sense there are enormous opprotunites to engage more deeply or widely in the service sector.


GT: What are Australia's core competencies?


Emerson: We are very competitive in education, agriculture, and tourism. It's projected there will be almost a million Chinese tourists visiting Australia by the end of this decade. Personally I think it's underestimate. If we get this right, if we get a very high quality tourism experience here in Australia and build more top class hotels, then I think we can exceed that projection.


Australia designed the Water Cube for the Beijing Olymipc Games and we will do more work in signing more contracts. Even in manufacturing, there has been a 150 percent increase during the last decade in Australia's export sophisticated manufacture goods to China, whereas for the US and Europe there has been a reduction of more than 20 percent. So something good is happening here.  

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