Australia profits from mainland's rapid rise

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 October, 2010, 12:00am

Australian Consul General Les Luck, who will give the opening address at today's gathering, is a veteran Asia-Pacific watcher - particularly regarding his nation's bilateral relationship with Beijing.

China is now Australia's largest trading partner, with two-way trade having increased by 15.1 per cent last year to A$85.1 billion (HK$656.3 billion).

Australia offers many of the products China needs to continue its modernisation. 'It's a competitive and reliable supplier of minerals and energy resources including iron ore, coal, alumina, base metals and LNG,' Luck says. Minerals and fuels accounted for 75.3 per cent of Australia's merchandise exports to the mainland last year.

China is also a large consumer of Australia's agricultural products such as wool; 66 per cent of Chinese wool imports last year came from Australia.

The resources boom is undoubtedly one driven by rapid economic growth in emerging Asian economies, most notably China and India, and continuing strong demand from Australia's long-term traditional resources markets (Japan, Taiwan and South Korea).

The value of Australia's exports of resources has increased from A$37.9 billion in 1999 to A$130.8 billion last year. In volume terms, resources exports have increased by an average annual growth of 2.6 per cent per annum over this period.

'This suggests that while volume has been a driver of the increase in the value of Australia's resources exports, increases in the price of Australian resource exports [a consequence of increased demand from emerging economies far outstripping global supply growth] has been the most significant factor,' Luck says.

High prices have encouraged new entrants into the market and he expects that in coming years, new global production capacity for key commodity exports such as coal and iron ore - Australia's two most valuable resource exports - will result in a moderate easing of prices.

Nevertheless, 'ultimately, prices will likely remain above long-term averages for quite some time and volumes demanded will continue to rise, especially given the low levels of per-capita energy and steel consumption currently in China and India', he cautions. China and India will continue to grow rapidly and Luck expects this growth will be metal- and energy-intensive.

'Australia's resource endowment, our geographical proximity to these growth economies and our ability to continue being a cost-competitive and stable supplier of raw materials means that Australia will continue to be a reliable source of resources into the future,' Luck says.

However, the relationship is not just a resources story. China is also Australia's largest source of overseas students and a significant supplier of tourists. Australian companies also have strong capabilities in sectors including financial services, agribusiness, green building design, logistics, urban planning, engineering and construction, environmental services and water management, Luck says.