Australian firms seek 'smooth' trade with China despite Canberra's provocation
Published: Nov 09, 2021 08:28 PM
A booth of Australian exhibitor at the 4th CIIE in Shanghai, November 9, 2021 Photo: Li Hao/GT

A booth of Australian exhibitor at the 4th CIIE in Shanghai, November 9, 2021 Photo: Li Hao/GT

Many Australian companies are attending the 4th China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai with some expressing hope for "smooth" trade with China, even as the Australian federal government has adopted a provocative approach toward China that has seriously damaged bilateral ties. 

Further underscoring the divergence in Australian federal and state governments' approach toward China, the costs for some of the companies' attendance at the CIIE are covered by the Victoria state government, according to Australian media reports.

Exhibitor Blossoming Richness Pty is from Victoria, and it attended the event for the second time. "We did apply for a subsidy, which is expected to cover 40 percent of the cost of attending the expo," Fu Surui, a manager of the company told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

But he added that whether the company can receive any money still depends on the organizer, as it needs to provide related certification about the exhibition at the venue.

The Australian newspaper reported earlier that dozens of companies were having their costs covered by the Victoria state government. "Our presence at the Expo is helping connect Victorian businesses to key markets to secure new contracts and grow jobs," the newspaper cited a government spokesman as saying.

The move came after the Australian federal government in April moved to tear up agreements between China and Victoria state on the Belt and Road Initiative, which further exacerbated bilateral tensions. 

At the booth of the Victorian government's trade and investment office at the CIIE, visitors continuously stopped and consulted with the exhibitors. Some of the exhibitors were Chinese representatives of their Australian partners. The staff at the booth declined to be interviewed.

Fu said that tensions between China and Australia indeed had a negative impact on the company. For instance, the cost of exporting wine to China has been pushed up a lot due to higher import tariffs, according to Fu. 

"As a trader, we hope that the world is peaceful and bilateral trade will become smooth," Fu said, adding that the company has received orders worth 20 million yuan ($3.13 million) as of Tuesday, compared to 20 million yuan during last year's event.

Australian companies from other states are also actively attending the CIIE.

Western Australia-based Australian Natural Biotechnology Pty attended the expo for the fourth time. From a 9-square-meter exhibition area at the first CIIE to the 144-square-meter area this year, "our company introduced products including bee honey and skin care products to the Chinese market," Zhang Wenqiu, general manager of the company's China branch, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Zhang said that the company received orders worth as much as 700,000 yuan at the second CIIE and 1 million yuan at the third expo. 

The visitor flow this year was less than in previous years due to the COVID-19 epidemic and strict safety measures, but the company still had many opportunities to chat with local governments' purchasing groups from Shanghai, East China's Shandong Province and other regions, according to Zhang.