Question Time: Trade with China

  • Transcript, E&OE
16 September 2015

Mr GOODENOUGH (Moore) (14:21): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister update the House on the government's efforts to further engage with China and advance our economic and political relationship in a way that will create jobs and help families in Western Australia, particularly in the electorate of Canning?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:22): I thank the member for Moore for his question. As he well knows, China is absolutely central–

Mr Champion interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Wakefield is warned.

Ms JULIE BISHOP: to Australia's economic and strategic interests. It is Australia's largest merchandise trading partner, our largest source of overseas students and our second-largest source of overseas visitors. In fact, last financial year, nearly one million Chinese visitors and tourists came to Australia, and they contributed $7 billion to our economy. That is a 32 per cent increase on the previous year. The member for Moore will be delighted to know that, over the same period, 40,000 Chinese visitors and tourists came to Western Australia, spending $207 million in Western Australia. I know that the tourist sector in Canning would have benefited from that.

This historic China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will lay the foundation for even stronger economic and investment relationships between us because it will allow for a range of industries and sectors to capitalise on the burgeoning Chinese middle class. For the first time, for example, China has guaranteed an open door for Australian-owned businesses to build, wholly own and operate restaurants and hotels in China, and there will be a similar deal for aged-care facilities and hospitals in certain locations.

Mr Perrett interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Moreton has been warned.

Ms JULIE BISHOP: So this free trade agreement will underpin closer ties and trading ties that are going to create jobs and opportunity for Australians and for Australians working in China.

But, for our relationship to prosper and to ensure that it endures well into the future, it will not be just about trade and investment. It is a deeper understanding facilitated through exchanges of ideas and culture and opportunities and people. This is a relationship that requires and deserves close attention, nurturing, careful management and respect. In November of this year we will host in Sydney the next round of the Australia-China high-level dialogue, which will bring together senior figures from both our countries in business, education, media and culture to explore concrete ideas to build closer bilateral exchanges.

It is estimated–and this is an interesting point–that Chinese people are spending something like US$10 trillion globally on luxury goods, so the potential for Australia's creative industry, our creative economies, to tap into this enormous middle class and this huge luxury goods market will be facilitated by the free trade agreement. Our fashion industry, which contributes about $12 billion to the Australian economy and already employs about 220,000 people, will grow enormously under the China free trade agreement because our designers and our leather, our wool and our cotton–the fabrics used in our fashion designs–will be high-quality products much sought after by the Chinese market.

Both Australia and China stand to profit as we strengthen our relationship. Labor must follow through on its commitment to make this the Asian century.(Time expired)

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