Major Australian companies at 6th CIIE ‘very optimistic’ about bilateral trade outlook
Published: Nov 09, 2023 08:41 PM
Penfolds vineyard in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. Photo: Courtesy of Penfolds

Vineyard in cooperation with Penfolds in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. Photo: Courtesy of Penfolds

Representatives of major Australian exporters participating in the 6th China International Import Expo (CIIE), the world's largest import-themed expo, expressed high hopes for bilateral trade, following Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's visit to China this week. They emphasized the importance of trade with China, which features strong complementarity.

"We're obviously very, very pleased to see the strengthening of the relationship in the recent months. We absolutely welcome the news of the consensus on the wine dispute," Tom King, managing director of Penfolds, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview at the brand's CIIE booth.

King noted that many of Penfolds' long-term Chinese partners visited the booth during the ongoing CIIE and many deals have been signed.

Penfolds is a brand of Australia's wine group TWE.

China and Australia had reached a consensus on resolving their disputes on wine and wind towers under the WTO framework, China's Ministry of Commerce announced on October 22. The move is seen as a promising step for bilateral relations.

"It's been a very tough period for everyone involved in the Australian wine industry, including farmers, growers and wine makers," King said. "Now we know that there is an opportunity there for us to bring Australian wines back to complement the wines that we have available in the market already."

Even during the "challenging period," Penfolds maintained its investment in China to ensure the connections that it had built with consumers over the years were maintained, noted King.

King said there is a continued appetite from Chinese consumers for Australian wine.

Amid the wine dispute with China, Australia faced an oversupply of wines equivalent to 2.8 billion bottles, the Guardian reported in August.

The optimism also spread to other sectors.
"The South Australian premier's visit to China in September was very successful and kind of made the way. Now, the PM's visit to China has made it very open," said Bob Lawson, CEO of Balco Australia, a hay supplier.

Lawson visited China in July and September and again in November, and found the market "becoming more and more open every time."

"We are very excited to have access back for hay into China," he said.
Lawson's company signed deal worth A$100 million ($64.1 million) with a Chinese dairy brand to supply 20,000 tons of hay a year for a period of 10 years. Exports to China will soon overtake those to Japan, as the Chinese dairy market continues to grow, according to the Aussie businessman.

Commenting on Albanese's meeting with the top Chinese leader, Lawson said that "having a good trade relationship is very important for Australia, as well as China, but particularly for the Australian farmer."

From January to October 2023, China's imports from Australia rose 8.4 percent year-on-year, data from the General Administration of Customs (GAC) of China showed on Tuesday.

Bilateral trade reached $189.88 billion, up 4 percent year-on-year, according to the GAC. Australia accounted for 3.9 percent of China's total foreign trade, up from 3.5 percent in 2022.

Albanese's visit, along with the largest Australian business delegation to China, is the "most crucial in terms of Australia's future," Yu Lei, professor at Shandong University, told the Global Times.

Jakob Stausholm, CEO of Rio Tinto Group, told the Global Times that few countries in the world enjoy economic complementarity like that enjoyed by Australia and China, which has generated tremendous benefits for both countries. 

Through the CIIE, the Chinese government has sent a highly consistent signal. This is really positive for foreign companies doing business in China, where they need a stable business environment, the Rio Tinto CEO said.

On Wednesday, Shanghai Mayor Gong Zheng met with Queensland's Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Gong said that cooperation between Shanghai and Queensland has a broad space, involving more exchanges among enterprises and institutions while strengthening innovative cooperation in sectors such as biomedicine.

The premier led the largest trade mission in Queensland's history to China, with 100 representatives from the education, business, resources, agriculture and tourism sectors.