Doorstop - Australian Embassy, Beijing
STEVEN CIOBO: So, delighted to be here, obviously. I have travelled to China as part of our engagement through Strategic Economic Dialogue and Joint Ministerial Council – an opportunity for us to speak about the breadth and depth of the Australia-China trading relationship, the investment relationship and to also look at what we can do in terms of non-tariff measures. We have a really strong, healthy relationship. And from time to time, although there are trade irritants on both sides, we work through these issues and this dialogue, of course, is a critical part of that and builds upon the regular discussion that we have. Also pleased today to be able to launch this, the Online Education and Edtech Opportunities in China. This is an Austrade report which speaks about the terrific opportunities that will flow, in particular, for the K-12 sector. It recognises the fact that Australia is regarded as having some of the best resources when it comes to education, in particular, in relation to online.
We have around 200,000 Chinese students that are staying in Australia, which represents around 30 per cent of foreign students in Australia. This sector, the K-12 in particular, but more broadly the edtech sector, we estimate will be worth in excess of $50 billion by the year 2019. So, the opportunities in this sector are particularly pronounced and this is a key part of the reason why we are, through Austrade, putting so much focus and emphasis on making sure that we get more Australian businesses aware of this opportunity. And that includes, for example, being able to use the Shanghai Landing Pad as an opportunity to develop social networks, capital networks and get some exposure to the Chinese market, which we hope, in time, will ensure that we're in a stronger positon. I can take your questions.
INTERVIEWER: The bi-lats this afternoon, what are you, what agenda will you be pushing in particular?
STEVEN CIOBO: This afternoon will be an opportunity for us to talk about what we can do together to further broaden and deepen our trade relationship. Of course, China is our largest trading partner. It'll be an opportunity for us also to look at the way in which ChAFTA is going. We know that ChAFTA has been – the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement – has been critical to helping to drive strong export growth from Australia. We also see more opportunity in the future and I'm confident through these dialogues that we will be able to address non-tariff measures, we'll also, of course, build on the in-built mechanism within the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement for ongoing discussions around non-tariff measures. So that's the types of issues we're going to talk about today.
INTERVIEWER: Is there any specific outcomes within that, that you'll be really pushing?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well look, one of the issues that we'll be discussing and canvassing will be with respect to the moratorium that was recently put in place with respect to beef exports from six beef processors. There's also been a number of headlines with respect to potential limitations on coal imports, so that'll be some of the issues we'll be able to tackle this afternoon. I'm sure there'll be issues on China's side as well, that they'd like to raise with me and so it'll be a chance to talk through those issues. But I reinforce again, the relationship we have with China is a very positive relationship. The discussions that I have on a regular basis with my Chinese counterparts, including only last weekend in Manila, as part of discussions around the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, show a high level of cooperation between Australia and China and that cooperation underpins this broad trading relationship and investment relationship that we have.
INTERVIEWER: Do you expect any outcome from the beef ban at all?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, look, we'll see. I mean, I've got to say that I have found China, Chinese authorities to be engaging. I think that we've done good work together, I was pleased that we were able to achieve a good resolution with respect to shipments that were on the water prior to the moratorium coming into effect. We now have given, through the Department of Agriculture and with the cooperation of the six affected facilities, information to AQSIQ, the Chinese quarantine equivalent, to be able to satisfy any concerns they might have. We take seriously their requirements around labelling and other issues. We want to make sure that we work collaboratively with them to ensure we can overcome those challenges.
INTERVIEWER: There's fear that it may take months to actually resolve this, I mean what's your feeling on that?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I don't want it to take months. I have been very proactive and I want to commend the team here at the Australian embassy because they have been very forward-leaning and engaging as well with Chinese authorities to try to resolve this. As I said, this afternoon's meeting will be another opportunity for us to canvass it. But we have been doing good work together. Now, it sits with Chinese authorities and so I'm hopeful, off the back of this afternoon, to have a clearer picture about what sort of timeframes might be involved.
INTERVIEWER: After President Trump's decision to block a Chinese investment in a US semi-conductor company, the Chinese have expressed concern that national security is being used by other countries as a guise for protectionism. FIRB is something I believe that in the past has come up from the Chinese in these discussions, will you, I mean are you expecting to hear concerns from them about Australian decisions on national security preventing Chinese investments in Australia?
STEVEN CIOBO: No, every country has national security exemptions and that's to be expected. I don't think that will be a surprise to anybody, to know there are national security exemptions. But look, Australia has been unashamedly pro-liberalised trade and pro-liberalised investment. Australia recognises that we need foreign capital to help reach our full potential as an economy. We also recognise that it's been access to export markets that has helped to drive Australia's economic growth. If you look at the last calendar year for example, over half of Australia's economic growth came from growth of exports. That underpins the approach of the Coalition to opening up export markets and, of course, the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement has been one of the contributing drivers to the growth that we see in exports. So, with respect to FIRB, we, of course, have in place a robust foreign investment review board process that looks at investment opportunities but when you consider the amount of applications that FIRB considers and when you look at the amount that are rejected versus the amount that are approved, it's clear that Australia retains an open economy, and one that's welcoming of investment into Australia that's consistent with our national interest.
INTERVIEWER: Is this the first bilateral meeting at this level since the critical infrastructure investment – is this the correct term for it? – essentially was set up?
STEVEN CIOBO: I would need to get back to you on that, I can't off the top of my head think of it. The last, I mean, I had bilateral meetings in Manila, I had it last weekend but in terms of the core of the question I would need to have a look at that.
INTERVIEWER: Could I ask about coal? There have, concerns have been expressed that there are behind the border attempts to constrain imports of coal, our second biggest export to China. Are you concerned about lack of consultation in this area?
STEVEN CIOBO: We've seen the reports.
STEVEN CIOBO: And I would stress that, officially, we haven't been advised of any restrictions been put in place. This afternoon, of course, will be another opportunity to just canvass that and see if the reports are accurate or not. If they are accurate, to be able to talk through what implications might be and what measures might be considered. If they're not accurate, then of course, it'll be a chance to reassure all Australian coal exporters.