Premier Daniel Andrews has made an ambitious pitch for Victoria to become China’s new gateway to Australia as he ramps up plans to capitalise on the country’s growing middle class.
With new figures revealing food and fibre exports to China reached $2.8 billion last year, the state government has begun drafting a bold strategy to drive investment even further – particularly among affluent Chinese households where demand for Victorian products is most likely to rise.
In a speech to business leaders in Beijing on Tuesday night, Mr Andrews also talked up the China free trade agreement – despite an earlier push by Trades Hall to “call out” the deal as problematic for workers’ rights.
“(Chinese president) Xi Jinping’s very successful visit to Australia last year, and of course, the historic China-Australia free trade agreement should give all of us great optimism, great confidence, and a great sense of possibility about the Victoria and Australia-China relationship,” he said.
The Premier’s comments come as a new report to be released on Wednesday reaffirmed China’s position as Victoria’s top destination for food exports, followed by the USA, Japan and Indonesia.
Figures from the Victorian Food and Fibre Export Report 2014-15 showed exports to China increasing, particular in terms of wool (valued at $1.06 billion last year); meat ($449 million); horticulture ($38 million) and wine ($64 million).
The government’s planned China strategy will provide further opportunities for growth, and will be drafted while Mr Andrews tours the country this week on his first official visit as Premier. It is expected to involve a sharper focus on areas such as food and wine, medical technology, and professional services; the likelihood of a new sister-state relationship in the country’s booming southwest; and annual visits to China by the Premier and his cabinet MPs.
Travelling and supplying goods will also be easier, with Air China revealing on Tuesday that it would provide daily direct flights between Beijing and Melbourne from October 25.
The move is an increase on the four services currently offered by the airline each week, and will place pressure on other carriers that don’t run direct flights from Melbourne to mainland China, such and Qantas and Virgin.
“This will mean more visitors, more tourists and more produce coming from Victoria to China – and that’s great for jobs,” Mr Andrews said.
TOP 10 MARKETS FOR VICTORIAN FOOD EXPORTS. A$ MILLIONS (VOLUME: ‘000 TONNES)
1. China: 1111 (669)
2. USA: 1011 (168)
3. Japan: 834 (263)
4. Indonesia: 499 (225)
5. New Zealand 479 (272)
6. Hong Kong: 405 (113)
7. Malaysia: 365 (227)
8. Singapore: 353 (123)
9. United Arab Emirates: 325 (98)
10. Vietnam: 294 (273)
Source: Victorian Food and Fibre Export Performance Report 2014-15, Victorian Government
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