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China-Australia Business Cooperation Enters the New Era of ChAFTA-driven Prosperity

The economies of both China and Australia have been growing steadily over the past two decades. The bilateral commercial ties are featured by highly complementary industries,comprehensive partnership in various fields for multiple forms of economic exchange, bringing enormous benefits to both peoples. Since the establishment of diplomatic relationship between China and Australia in 1972, our commercial cooperation has flourished and evolved into the sound pattern of dynamic,all-round development, which serves as a sound basis for the overall bilateral relationship. This has become a contributing factor to the growth in the Asia-Pacific region and the rest of the world.The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA),which came into effect in December 2015, is a milestone in this regard, for it opens up tremendous trade and investment opportunities in sectors like energy and resources, banking, tourism, education, aviation service, health and aged care, infrastructure and agriculture, etc. Hence the Chinese-Australian economic relationship has entered the new era of ChAFTA-driven prosperity.

The successful Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing in May 2017 opened up new development prospects for mutually beneficial economic cooperation between China and Australia. The Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steven Ciobo and Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews attended the Forum, during which the Australian Government announced its intention to join the Initiative on Promoting Unimpeded Trade Cooperation along the Belt and Road proposed by China's Ministry of Commerce. The Belt and Road Forum has drawn the attention of the Australian media and business community for its positive implications on wide-range of opportunities to further expand the depth and breadth of the bilateral economic partnership.

In 1972, when China and Australia established diplomatic relations, total import and export value between the two countries was only US$86 million. Bilateral trade reached US$107.8 billion in 2016, scaling up thousands of times. Two-way investment is also developing steadily. Today, China has become Australia's seventh largest investment source and the fifth biggest destination for Australian investment. The stock of investment by the two countries in each other's market is over AUS$80 billion each. A major outcome of Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Australia in March 2017 was the agreement by both countries to launch review of ChAFTA service and investment chapters, thus enabling us to further tap the potential of the ChAFTA-driven new era. Since 2009, China has been Australia's largest trading partner, export market and source of imports. On the other hand, the bilateral trade structure has been evolving over the time. At present, the main items China imports from Australia include iron ore, coal, natural gas, wool, barley and wheat. The main products China exports to Australia cover computers, communication and electronic equipment, home appliances, toys, sporting goods, textile and furniture.

Bilateral trade in services has developed rapidly in recent years, covering a wide range of sectors including tourism, education, finance and insurance, transportation, consulting and architectural design. In 2016, the value of bilateral service trade reached AUS$14 billion, a year-on-year increase of 18.2%. China has become Australia's largest service export market and No. 1 source of tourism revenue. Some 2 million people traveled between China and Australia in 2016, of which 1.2 million were Chinese visitors to Australia, a year-on-year increase of 27%. 2017 is the 'China-Australia Year of Tourism'and many events were organized by the two countries to promote the business. The number of Chinese students enrolled in Australian schools accounts for nearly 30% of the total number of international students in Australia. The top six Chinese banks have set up branches or offices in Australia, while the Big Four Australian banks have operations in China.

The 19th CPC Congress held this month provides a blueprint for China's development as well as new opportunities for future economic exchange between China and Australia. President Xi Jinping has committed to the world that China will adopt policies to promote further liberalization of trade and facilitation of investment; China will adopt the system of pre-establishment national treatment plus the negative list approach across the board; China would offer greater market access, and protect the lawfully rights and interests of foreign investors. It is the shared understanding that the business community of both China and Australia should joint their efforts in further cultivating the markets and developing new modes of commerce. We should also respect each other's core interests and properly handle trade frictions that might occur in this process. It is desirable to seek early conclusion of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) and work together to build the Asia-Pacific Free Trade Area.

The course of trade and economic cooperation between China and Australia over the past 45 years shows that mutual understanding and positive interaction lead to win-win outcomes and long-term growth of our mutually beneficial relations. Looking ahead, China would pursue the vision of innovative, coordinated, green, and open development by upholding the strategy of reform and opening up for inclusive growth and sustainable progress for everyone. An open China is ready to work with Australia and all others for the purpose of building a community with a shared future for mankind, always promoting peace and development around the world.

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