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Australia-China 2025 strategy.

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and International Security

2 April 2006


The visit this week by China’s Premier Wen Jiabao provides an excellent opportunity for Australia and China to deepen and broaden the economic relationship between our two countries.

Australian exporters have experienced 46 monthly trade deficits in a row. At the same time, the Howard Government has provided no long-term policy solutions to turning our trade deficit around.

Australia desperately needs a new export strategy.

The Howard Government should seize the opportunity presented by Premier Wen’s visit to place on the table an Australia-China strategy that will take the relationship through to 2025.

In taking the trade and economic relationship with China forward, Australia should be adopting a comprehensive framework along the lines of a seven point plan, which Labor has been advocating since mid-2005.

1. Develop A Strategic Economic Relationship

• Australia must define what it means by a strategic economic relationship with China. We must diversify our relationship beyond energy and resources to include manufacturing, and services making use of our comparative advantage in high tech high skill industries.

2. Be Clear About our Relationship with the United States

• It is important for us to be honest and clear-cut with our Chinese friends that Australia will not be shifting in any way in its half century alliance with Washington under the ANZUS Treaty.

3. Avoiding Conflict over Taiwan

• A core objective of Australia’s long-term relationship with China must be to avoid conflict across the Taiwan Straits. Australia should not be a passive bystander on this. If the Taiwan matter was to go radically wrong, the consequences for Australia would be acute.

4. Shape the agenda of the East Asian Summit and the East Asian Community

• Australia’s challenge is to become an active participant in the East Asian Summit and East Asian Community structure - to play a constructive role in the future of the region.

5. Engage with China on Human Rights, Labour Standards and the Environment

• Our future relationship with China must be strong enough, mature enough and broad enough to also sustain a continuing dialogue with Beijing on sensitive questions such as human rights, labour standards and environmental standards. There have been significant human rights improvements in China over the last quarter of a century and these must be recognised. Nonetheless, human rights abuses continue and Australia must be robust in responding to this challenge.

6. Become a China-Literate Nation

• Ten years ago, the then Australian Labor Government launched the National Asian Languages and Studies Strategy for Australian Schools (NALSAS). By 2003, we had approximately 750,000 Australian school students studying one or other of these priority Asian languages. Regrettably, in 2004, the Federal Government ceased funding this program. Because this is a truly inter-generational project of enduring economic importance, it is critical that the Federal Government re-engage this strategy and continue to move towards our original objective of an increasingly Asia-literate (and within that an increasingly China literate) Australia to meet the great challenges of the Asia century and what may well become the China century.

7. Accelerate Political Engagement

• We should expand significantly the dimensions of our political exchange program between Australian and Chinese politicians, bureaucrats, business leaders, journalists, students and artists to ensure that there is a

strong, robust, human dimension to the Australia-China relationship into the future.

It will be through the adoption of a comprehensive and long-term strategy that the Australia-China trade and economic relationship and more broadly the political and diplomatic relationship can develop into a truly mutually beneficial arrangement.

Australia has had diplomatic relations with China for 35 years. The Howard Government has been in office for ten years. Yet we still do not have a comprehensive relationship strategy with China - the country which is likely to shape so much of Australia’s strategic and economic future for the next half century.

The Howard Government should seize the opportunity this week and embark upon such a course.

Ends. 2 April 2006

Contact: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823