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Thursday, 30 September 1993
Page: 1512

Senator LOOSLEY —My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. I refer to consistent reports of increasing exports of high value added goods to China. Is the minister in a position to inform the Senate of the progress that Australian companies are making in breaking into the market for elaborately transformed manufactures in China? Is he further able to advise the Senate what the government is doing to assist such companies? How is government policy contributing to the progress, and what are the constituent elements of that policy?

Senator COOK —I think it is a very good day to ask this question, because I notice that there are reports that CITIC, the China International Trust and Investment Corporation, may be contemplating listing itself on the Australian Stock Exchange. The figures for Australia-China trade from the financial year 1991-92 to the financial year 1992-93 show an increase of 56 per cent in trade to China from Australia, lifting the value of our exports to $2.3 billion.

  China is now our fastest growing trade market in the world. During the same period of the last year elaborately transformed manufactures—the category that the Australian Statistician sets aside for the most complex and sophisticated manufactured exports out of Australia—more than doubled from $131 million last year to $300 million this year. That is an increase of 128 per cent.

  Both elaborately transformed manufactures and simply transformed manufactures are now growing at twice the rate of the total exports to China. It ought to be noted, despite that very high increase, that the core trading export items out of Australia are coal, iron ore and agricultural products. In China, Australia is now getting a reputation as being a country which is a good source of manufactured goods, a sophisticated supplier of quality services and a high technology country which is able to supply quality technology competitive with that of Japan, the United States, Korea and Europe. We are seen as being able to compete effectively in quality with the innovations that the market wants, deliver on time and to price. It is a reputation for customised manufacturing and services and it is one that we should all want to promote as a broader image of the Australian manufacturing base.

  Earlier this month, I had the privilege to lead the largest ever delegation of Australian business people in an offshore trade mission. One hundred and twenty-three Australian business people, representing 85 Australian companies, accompanied me on a nine day visit to China.

   We opened with a seminar hosted by me and the Chinese trade minister, Madam Wu Yi, in Beijing. I then led delegations and conducted business seminars on behalf of Australia in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Quanzhou. The heroes of this delegation were the members of the Australian business

community who accompanied me. Many of the Australian business people on this mission conducted themselves in a fully professional way with a genuine interest in and understanding of the Chinese market. They gained a reputation for this country as one in which we are straightforward and honest dealers in business, selling quality products.

  Let me mention quickly some of the Australian companies that concluded contracts during this visit: Ericsson Australia, Olex Cables, Alcatel Australia, Telstra, the ABC and Burns Philp. There was a whole range of other companies as well, culminating with a group of them agreeing on a letter of intent for a power station and freight and warehousing facility contract worth, in Australian dollars, $400 million. It was a very successful mission. There are three lessons now that the Australian companies should heed and enact. The three lessons are: follow up, follow up and follow up. This is a market that will pay great dividends for Australia. We have got our foot clearly in the door. We can now expand our presence there.