Home / Opinion / From the Press

Interview: Australia must deepen engagement with China through multiple, "meaningful" linkages

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-12-09 09:08

SYDNEY, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- From the economy to people, Australia-China ties are growing in importance, but efforts must continue to build on that progress, said Dr. Andrew Leigh, Australia's Shadow Assistant Treasurer.

Elaborating on a major speech that he gave in late November at the launch of a yearbook on China, Dr Leigh told Xinhua in an email interview that it is "in Australia's interests to continue to deepen our engagement with China, not just economically but also through meaningful linkages between governments, business, and civil society."

Climate change is one example where both countries can collaborate closely, said Leigh, who is one of Australia's Opposition members led by the Labor Party shadowing the country's ministerial positions.

Such collaboration "strengthens the bilateral relationship with China, and global cooperation more broadly".

"Australia has a long history of cooperation on climate change policy with the Chinese Government. This has included providing technical advice to China on the design of emission trading schemes under the last Labor government, and has extended to a MOU on climate change under the current government," said Leigh, who is also a former economics professor of the Australian National University.

"To deliver on sustainable profitability we need real action on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Australia and China are well placed to work together on these issues if governments have the will."

In his recent speech, which covered what modern Australia would look like had China not embarked on its reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, Leigh pointed to Australia's increasing dependence on Chinese economic contributions, including merchandize exports, education, tourism and immigration.

Without a developing China, Australia's economy would be almost 5 percent smaller, or 8,000 Australian dollars (5,960 U.S. dollars) less a year for every Australian household, he said.

Australian universities would be nearly 6 billion Australian dollars poorer and its tourism industry would similarly earn that amount less each year with 1.2 million fewer visitors. There would not have been a mining boom or much of a "dining" boom.

As such, the Australia-China relationship is increasingly important and there must be political trust to build on that, Leigh explained to Xinhua.

"In recent years, Australian and Chinese leaders have worked closely on a great range of complex issues -- this would not be possible without political trust."

The engagement also includes Australia sharing its experience and expertise with China, such as "exporting Australia's fresh, clean and safe agricultural produce into a growing Chinese middle class".

"When last in Government the Australian Labor Party began a process of deeper engagement and cooperation with China in agriculture" and the party "believes Australia has a wonderful opportunity to export more high quality, clean, green and safe food to China and our focus is on premium product, productivity and sustainable profitability", Leigh added.

Most Viewed in 24 Hours