Birmingham on the bright side

James Riley
Editorial Director

Australian trade authorities continued to press for more diversified trade with China that included a focus on new technology, regardless of the complexities of the relationship in high-tech goods and services, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said.

Speaking on the sidelines of an Australia China Chamber of Commerce event in Beijing on Friday, said there remained good opportunities in China for the tech industry in sectors where Australia had maintained a comparative advantage historically, like AgriTech, mining technology and services, and the health sector.

Asked whether the drive to diversify the trade relationship to include a more Australian technology exports had been made more difficult by the Australia government ban on Huawei participating in the 5G network build, Senator Birmingham opportunities remained for Australian tech in China.

Simon Birmingham: There remain opportunities for Australian tech in China

The Austrade Landing Pad program based in Shanghai was progressing well and was working to help new startup businesses with opportunities, particularly in the tech sector.

“We’re backing Australian companies to continue to innovate and collaborate on technology platforms, such as for example agricultural technology,” Senator Birmingham said in Beijing.

“We co-hosted last year through Austrade an AgTech event in Melbourne, that really was a significant demonstration of the new innovations and breakthroughs that are happening in that sector, which is a demonstration that a country like Australia can use historical comparative advantages to applying a new domain of technology spheres,” he said.

“We have been doing it now for a number of years in terms of the mining services sector. We don’t just as a country export raw minerals and resources anymore, we also export expertise to help other countries in their mining developments.

“We can do the same in agriculture, where our productivity and environmental sustainability is amongst the best in the world because of the advanced use of technology.”

“And we can make sure that we apply those tech breakthroughs as an export vehicle to integrate with countries like China and the rest of the region.”

Other areas of comparative advantage for Australia provides included in medical devices, aged care and the delivery of health services, Senator Birmingham said.

Meanwhile the Trade minister warned that the US’ threat of new tariffs against China to come into effect in September was a threat to global trade and would have the impact of slowing global growth.

He described the new tariffs, announced by US President Donald Trump late last week as a “disappointing potential further development in the trade war.”

“Now we hope that it will be averted through the discussions that we trust will continue over the next few weeks, we continue to urge the United States and China to engage in dialogue to try to resolve their differences,” Senator Birmingham said.

“We know from the IMF [and] the OECD that the trade tensions and the escalation in protectionism in recent times has had a negative impact on rates of global trade growth,” he said.

“That’s had a flow on effect of a negative impact on rates of global economic growth and our fear would be that a further deepening of that trade conflict and a further escalation of protectionist measures could hurt those trade flows further, economic growth further, and that’d be bad news for everybody.”

James Riley was in Beijing as a guest of the Australia China Business Council and Huawei Australia.

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