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Wednesday, 11 September 1985
Page: 478


Senator WATSON(5.28) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I welcome the recognition of the importance of Australia's trade with China and its future prospects because of its high growth potential. Historians will record the decision by the Chinese to open up their economy more to the outside world as one of the major economic events of this century. However, I think that few people in this country realise that significant trade between our two countries has existed for decades, principally in wheat, wool and some other commodities. We have to acknowledge that trading with China will never be easy. It will be frustrating. It will be a high risk. It will be subject to peaks and troughs from year to year as China grapples with the need to acquire foreign exchange and as it only slowly throws off the shackles of being a programmed society.

I believe that government and industry must work hand in glove, not as joint venturers, but as industry taking the risks and as government offering advice in opening up new doors to the opportunities that exist in China. The Australian Ambassador to China, Denis Argall, said recently that Australian companies must take the bit by the teeth, make the front end investment required, and get into the China market. Apart from the opportunities provided by our valuable steel resources, the opening up of China's economy provides a not to be missed opportunity, particularly for our rural sector, because of China's planned rural reforms. Also, China is interested in the smaller entrepreneurial Australian companies which are keen to invest in China.

Briefly, I should like to draw to the Senate's attention some of the initiatives that have been taken by Tasmanian businesses, and by our State Government headed by Robin Gray, in meeting this challenging opportunity. A recent trade mission headed by the Tasmanian Minister for Primary Industry, accompanied by a number of businessmen, was highly successful. The Chinese expressed their interest in a wide variety of venture projects. A number of Chinese have visited our State and have already placed orders. A significant rural company, Websters Ltd, has four people working with the Chinese in developing China's rural industries.

In October, the first shipment of Tasmanian animals to three Chinese provinces will begin. The Chinese are very enthusiastic about the role Tasmania can play because we are a natural quarantine station for Australia. In fact, Websters has signed a $3m deal with the Zhejiang Province in China. China recognises Tasmania's leadership in dairy farming and processing. It is keen to purchase our expertise and product development. Websters anticipates that it will be involved in another project based on our grassland farming techniques. In such a venture, this Tasmanian company could be supplying China with seed, agricultural and dairy equipment, and livestock, as well as communicating our technical expertise to their farmers. Another company, United Milk, has recently signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a dairy program in Tasmania. It expects to sell equipment, milk powder and processing technology.

One of our foremost building organisations, Trinity Projects Pty Ltd, was also represented on the trade visit to China. It has been invited to make submissions to the Chinese Government as joint venturers in projects, possibly for hotels in cities that have been recently opened up for foreign investment. The Chinese anticipate that such joint venture projects will take place at a small business level rather than with government involvement. China is a wide open market for our technological skills. For example, in many areas of China concrete is still mixed by hand. Tasmanian businesses as well as our farmers can expect to earn significant export revenue. China wants these projects to be joint ventures. It has raised the possibility of the Tasmanian Development Authority acting as an agent for payments between the Chinese and Tasmanian importers and exporters. Tasmanians are very enthusiastic about the trading opportunities offered by China. By gaining a foothold in the developing Chinese commercial and rural markets, as well as in the rural base, Tasmanian companies could create many more employment opportunities, not only in China but also in Tasmania.