China chips in $1 bil­lion

Mer­chan­dise ex­ports dou­bled past five years to $1.1b

Mercury (Hobart) - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID KILLICK and BLAIR RICHARDS

FIVE years to the day af­ter the his­toric visit to Ho­bart by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, China has be­come the state’s first $1 bil­lion mar­ket — ac­count­ing for a third of our trade. The Asian gi­ant now not only buys our iron ore, zinc, abalone, salmon and for­est prod­ucts, it also is a big con­trib­u­tor to Tassie’s tourism and ed­u­ca­tion sec­tors with 44,000 vis­i­tors last fi­nan­cial year and 5456 stu­dents en­rolled to study here.

TAS­MA­NIA’S closer re­la­tion­ship with China has helped fuel a $1.2 bil­lion jump in the state’s an­nual ex­ports since a whirl­wind visit to Ho­bart by Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping five years ago this week.

Pres­i­dent Xi and his wife Madame Peng Liyuan dropped by Govern­ment House, cud­dled a Tas­ma­nian devil and in­spected a Chi­nese ice­breaker be­fore the Pres­i­dent took in the sights from atop Mt Welling­ton.

Brief it may have been, but the one-day visit put the state on the TV screens of 1.3 bil­lion Chi­nese view­ers and gave an­other boost to a trade re­la­tion­ship that was al­ready on a steep as­cent.

In the year to Au­gust 2019, Tas­ma­nia ex­ported $3.71 bil­lion of goods world­wide, an in­crease of 34.1 per cent com­pared to the year to March 2014.

Over the past five years, China has be­come Tas­ma­nia’s first $1 bil­lion a year mar­ket — our big­gest trad­ing part­ner — ac­count­ing for a third of over­seas trade.

In 2017 alone, Tas­ma­nian mer­chan­dise ex­ports to China grew by 52 per cent.

It is not just tra­di­tional ex­ports, but ser­vices such as tourism and ed­u­ca­tion which have helped fuel the growth.

Last fi­nan­cial year, 44,400 vis­i­tors from main­land China vis­ited Tas­ma­nia — up 66 per cent on 2014 — mak­ing the coun­try Tas­ma­nia’s sec­ond largest in­ter­na­tional tourism source mar­ket.

At the same time there were 5456 Chi­nese stu­dents en­rolled in Tas­ma­nia’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, com­pris­ing ap­prox­i­mately 40 per cent of the state’s to­tal over­seas stu­dent en­rol­ments.

Act­ing Trade Min­is­ter Jeremy Rock­liff said build­ing the re­la­tion­ship was to both na­tions’ ad­van­tage.

“The Tas­ma­nian Govern­ment is com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with China, which is iden­ti­fied as a key strate­gic pri­or­ity mar­ket un­der our trade strat­egy,” he said.

“We see great op­por­tu­nity into the fu­ture to fur­ther grow our ex­port of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, re­sources, en­ergy, tourism and ser­vices.

“This govern­ment will con­tinue to proudly cham­pion our busi­nesses on the in­ter­na­tional stage through our trade strat­egy to main­tain the growth in our econ­omy and sup­port more lo­cal jobs.”

Tas­ma­nia’s ma­jor ex­ports to China in­clude iron ore, pro­cessed zinc, At­lantic salmon, abalone and for­est prod­ucts.

Mer­chan­dise ex­ports have al­most dou­bled in the past five years, grow­ing from $610 mil­lion to more than $1.1 bil­lion last fi­nan­cial year — tak­ing the to­tal value of ex­ports to China to $1.157 bil­lion.

Five years ago, Pres­i­dent Xi vis­ited his na­tion’s first ice­breaker Xue Long, which was berthed in Ho­bart.

Ear­lier this month, the ship, and its new sis­ter ves­sel Xue Long 2 were again in port, un­der­lin­ing the im­por­tance of the state’s grow­ing Antarc­tic sec­tor.

Each such ship visit can in­ject $1 mil­lion into the lo­cal econ­omy as they re­fuel and re­sup­ply.

Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia Vice Chan­cel­lor Ru­fus Black vis­ited China re­cently, touch­ing base with five part­ner uni­ver­si­ties.

Over­seas stu­dents make up 20 per cent of the univer­sity’s en­rol­ments and the 4156 Chi­nese univer­sity stu­dents make up the largest sin­gle over­seas stu­dent co­hort in Tas­ma­nia.

Pro­fes­sor Black said over­seas stu­dents made an in­valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to the univer­sity – and to the wider com­mu­nity.

“In re­cent years, our univer­sity has pur­sued a strat­egy cen­tred on growth in in­ter­na­tional stu­dent num­bers, par­tic­u­larly those com­ing from China and In­dia,” he said.

“It helped to achieve the scale needed by a univer­sity with the breadth of of­fer­ings and mul­ti­ple cam­puses that ours has; it strength­ened ties to our global com­mu­nity, and added to the cul­tural rich­ness and di­ver­sity of the Tas­ma­nian com­mu­nity.”

Pre­mier Will Hodg­man is vis­it­ing Europe this week with an eye to build­ing trade re­la­tion­ships there.

His del­e­ga­tion in­cludes rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Tas­ma­nian Mar­itime Net­work, the Tas­ma­nian Po­lar Net­work, the Aus­tralian In­dus­try De­fence Net­work, IMAS, the Aus­tralian Mar­itime Col­lege and Hy­dro Tas­ma­nia, as well as our De­fence Ad­vo­cate.

They will meet with se­nior govern­ment and business lead­ers in the UK, France, Spain and the Nether­lands.

Mr Hodg­man, who is the state’s trade min­is­ter, says he is keen to build on suc­cess to date.

“Tas­ma­nia’s econ­omy is the fastest grow­ing in the na­tion and our govern­ment’s plan is all about main­tain­ing the mo­men­tum,” he said.

Mr Rock­liff said build­ing trade and broad­en­ing its base was one of the Govern­ment’s high­est pri­or­i­ties.

“A thriv­ing ex­port sec­tor does not hap­pen by ac­ci­dent, it re­quires con­stant en­gage

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