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Wednesday, 1 June 1994
Page: 1075

Senator NEAL —My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. I understand from media reports that there is a large Chinese trade and investment mission currently in Australia, reportedly with a large shopping list estimated to be 519 projects requiring funding of around $10 billion, looking for partnerships with Australian companies. Can the minister advise the Senate what the government is doing to ensure that Australian companies take the best advantage of the business opportunities offered by this delegation?

Senator McMULLAN —I congratulate Senator Neal on asking a question that has something to do with the welfare of Australians, instead of some of the other grubby things that we have been dealing with here today. I did see the two reports to which Senator Neal refers. We are always pretty keen in this place to criticise the media. At least the newspaper reports that I have seen on this matter have given a proper priority and prominence to a significant event for the Australian economy, which could generate much investment and jobs.

  The reports refer to a 119-member Chinese trade and investment mission which is in Australia to participate in the China trade and investment forums in Melbourne and Sydney. I had the pleasure to open the forum in Melbourne this morning with Vice Minister Gu, who has had meetings with several of my colleagues here and in other places during his visit to this country. He represents the Chinese ministry for foreign trade and economic cooperation. He and I and my colleagues regard this as a very important delegation representing over 80 specially selected Chinese enterprises from regions all around China, both central and regional government and from business in China. Its aim is to attract Australian investment and joint venture participation in diverse areas, including infrastructure, manufacturing, telecommunications, agriculture, services and technology.

  As Senator Neal pointed out, the delegation is looking for Australian business partnerships to assist in 519 key projects which have been identified in those areas and others. Over 300 Australian firms are taking advantage of the opportunity offered by the Chinese mission to commence or to continue direct negotiations with Chinese businesses. These range from some of the largest Australian companies already engaged in China to small enterprises which are seeking to obtain initial market opportunities in China.

  We greatly welcome the fact that there is such a strong contingent from China. It demonstrates that the government and the business sector in that country are very committed to working with the Australian government and business to develop stronger commercial links. This visit builds on the highly successful Australian business mission to Beijing in September 1993, led by Senator Cook, which made a substantial contribution to the approximately one billion dollars of new investment projects by Australia and China.

  There is no reason why this visit cannot do something similar. After all, the value of the 519 projects is, by our assessment, more than $10 billion. Therefore, it is a significant example of government and business working together in Australia—government making it possible and helping business to make the trade happen. To the extent that this is a successful mission—and I am optimistic that it will be—it will create wealth and jobs for Australia and Australians.