Forum reviews progress in Australia-China ties

Monday, September 4, 2017 — Officials from Australia, key Chinese ministries and the Australian Embassy in Beijing have attended a forum at The Australian National University (ANU) to discuss the progress of an influential report which aims to build trade and economic ties between Australia and China.

The report, the Australia-China Joint Economic Report (ACJER), was compiled with support from both Beijing and Canberra to give a comprehensive analysis of the state of the relationship, and was delivered to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in August last year.

The Forum, hosted by the China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE) and the ANU East Asia Bureau of Economic Research, reviewed developments and discussed priorities for the Australian and Chinese governments to consider in strengthening the bilateral relationship.

Report co-editor Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale, from the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, said the forum resulted in four major recommendations, including the establishment an Australia-China Commission.

“The first priority is for both countries to jointly invest a well-resourced, independent, bi-national Australia-China (Ao-Zhong) Commission,” Professor Drysdale said.

“The Commission would boost the level and range of policy, research and scientific exchanges on priority areas.”

He said a joint high-level task force should begin to work on the details. The Commission would provide a core, nationally agreed framework of support for mutual exchange and transparent investment in the bilateral relationship.

Other key recommendations from the Forum are:

  • Commit to a high-level bilateral study of China’s Belt and Road initiative;

  • Progress a bilateral agreement on investment; and

  • Accelerate the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner with bilateral trade worth more than A$150 billion.

In the year since the report was published, the bilateral trade and investment relationship continued to grow despite weakness in the global economy and increased policy uncertainties in some major industrial countries.

Bilateral trade topped A$152 billion and grew more than three times as fast as world trade, mainly due to strong Australian commodity exports and impressive trade diversification.

The Forum said Australia and China should commit to a high-level official study of how China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) might add value to the already deep links between the two countries.

It said the investment relationship between Australia and China needs to be progressed under China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, as recommended in the ACJER, in order to build confidence in foreign investment from each country in the other. Both governments have agreed to this course.

Australia and China should also strive to work with other Asian countries to conclude the core Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) this year.

RCEP comprises half the world’s population, and more than one third of global GDP and trade. An ambitious RCEP could lift incomes across the region by two to nine per cent and is the only major trade negotiation in the world today

The ACJER is the product of a year-long collaboration between the ANU East Asian Bureau of Economic Research in the Crawford School of Public Policy and the CCIEE, a think tank that is supported by China's National Development and Reform Commission in Beijing.

The full report is available at http://press.anu.edu.au/publications/partnership-change.

FOR INTERVIEW:

Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale
ANU East Asian Bureau of Economic Research
Crawford School of Public Policy
E: peter.drysdale@anu.edu.au

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