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Wednesday, 11 September 1985
Page: 479


Senator COOK(5.33) —This paper, Australia's Trade with China, is the text of a statement made by the Minister for Trade (Mr Dawkins) in the House of Representatives on 22 August. I am happy to follow Senator Watson, who has drawn attention to the fact that, while in this chamber there are many matters on which the various parties will divide, one matter on which we can unite is our bipartisan attitude to promoting Australia's best interests in developing a greater volume and diversity of trade with China. The paper before us is a statement issued by the Minister for Trade prior to his departure on a two-week visit to China on 25 August.

It is important to note that this Government has followed in the wake of Gough Whitlam who, in 1972, as the Leader of the Opposition, took a specific initiative to open up the China market for Australia by personal contact. Our Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has visited that country and Hu Yaobang, the Vice-President of the Communist Party of China, has visited Australia. The mission by the Trade Minister, Mr Dawkins, from 25 August to 3 September was to continue to develop at a personal level the contacts between our countries so that the trade in which we engage will flow from mutual understanding and support.

This Government has established the China action plan as the model for promoting trade between our countries. We have increased the number of representatives of the Australian Trade Commission in Beijing and in other provincial centres in China to provide a focus for Australian business and Chinese interests to develop a two-way trade. We have appointed, with the rank of Ambassador, a special trade representative to North Asia, Mr Paul Barratt, who has the task of guiding not only the opening of the China market but also the markets in Japan and Korea. The Department of Trade has sold out the first edition of its publication `How to Trade with China'. Such is the interest of Australian business that there was an immediate rush to acquire that document upon its release.

The important thing to know about Australia-China trade from the Australian side is that while China has pursued the policy recently of opening up to the West, it is the only significant new world market that has been opened in the last few years, and the only one likely to be. It is a market of one billion people. If there is just a small increase in the standard of living of those one billion people, countries such as Australia which are in the neighbourhood of that market can gear their industrial production to take advantage of that standard of living increase. They can find for us a whole new market, the like of which has not existed before.

China has set itself the goal of increasing by four times the gross output of its industry and agriculture between 1980 and the year 2000. It is also looking to quadruple the volume of foreign trade between 1980 and 2000. We see for ourselves a particular role in achieving part of that quadrupling of foreign trade. In fact, the performance of Australia in trade with China in the last year has been remarkable. In 1984-85 our exports to China increased by 73.4 per cent. For the first time we exceeded $1 billion in the total value of our exports. The actual figure was $1.056 billion. China improved from being our tenth most important market to our fifth most important market in the space of 12 months. The main component of our trade has been wheat, but that now stands at 29 per cent of the total value of trade with that country. That is a smaller percentage than before, although the volume of wheat traded with China is greater than before. The important aspect is that our trade is diversifying. We are now trading in a whole range of other commodities.

The main point I want to mention is the interest of my State of Western Australia in seeing that joint ventures, technical co-operation, and Chinese investment in Australian facilities are developed further. Western Australia is renegotiating the reopening of Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd's Kwinana steel works with iron ore supplied from the mine of Koolyanobbing to develop a pig iron market with China on a joint venture basis. CSR Ltd, through Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd, is seeking to negotiate an agreement to open a mine to supply the China market with iron ore from the Pilbara at Mt Channar. Both those negotiations are important and have been going for some time. They are negotiations we are confident can be successfully concluded.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Townley) —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.