Working with China for a more sustainable future

31 October 2013

Australian companies have an unprecedented opportunity to work with China to help create a more sustainable future. This was the verdict from the Chinese and Australian speakers at the Sydney China Business Forum presented by the University of Sydney's China Studies Centre.

More than 300 Australian and Chinese business leaders, state ministers and academics discussed ways to create partnerships to help solve complex sustainability issues.

Premier of New South Wales the Hon. Barry O'Farrell MP opened the forum by welcoming Chinese investment and said the state has benefited from foreign investment.

"We have an alignment of local, state and federal governments, supporting an issue, supporting engagement within our region and importantly supporting our engagement with China," Mr O'Farrell said.

"The great news is it's a matter of bipartisanship. So despite a change of federal government we see the same new desire to grow that relationship.

"One of the benefits that New South Wales has is we're not simply a state where the major relationship with China and other parts of Asia is about resources. We have a far broader spread of investment opportunities and contacts between us and China than any other state.

"This city, this state and this country have grown off the back of offshore investment. At no stage have we ever had enough capital onshore in order to develop our businesses, to exploit our resources and to grow our economy, to maintain and improve the living standards that we expect and enjoy and to provide the opportunities and jobs that our citizens want."

Professor Kerry Brown, Director of the China Studies Centre, said sustainability issues were of critical importance to Australia and China.

"China's sustainability challenges in terms of its water, food, energy and environment are, by the very nature of the role China plays in the international supply chain and economy, also global challenges. And their solution will involve global co-operation. In each of these areas, Australia has the intellectual, economic and political input to be a partner for China," Professor Brown said.

CEO of HSBC Australia Tony Cripps spoke about the potential for growth and investments in the green sector.

"China's trade in the green sector raises enormous opportunities for investment. Growth in research and development will underpin and drive the Australia and China relationship, where China will increasingly provide capital," Mr Cripps said.

"The Chinese government is increasing funds available for investment into energy conservation and environmental protection as seen through the rise of green bonds in China.

"In the second quarter of 2013, HSBC looked at the global market for bonds aligned to seven key themes in the climate economy, including low-carbon energy, energy efficiency, finance, sustainable transport, as well as water and waste. HSBC estimates that the global universe of climate-themed bonds amounts to US$346 billion, double our 2012 estimate of US$174 billion.

"We estimate that investment in the green sector will grow to between 6 to 7 percent by 2015."

Chairman of Worley Parson John Grill discussed the company's engagement with China.

"We are one of the largest Australian employers in China, employing some 2800 people. Our approach to our business in China is based on the premise of 'China roots, global reach'," Mr Grill said.

"There are still barriers to competition in the regulated energy and infrastructure sectors, especially with awarding major projects. For international engineering companies, getting design accreditation in some sectors is still problematic. This continues to be an obstacle to working in the local market.

"Also, inconsistent and unclear government policy, codes and standards still hinder the ability to make decisions around long-term planning.

"However, it's pleasing to see efforts by the current Chinese leadership to address and lower barriers to competition." Read Mr Grill's full speech.

Economic and Commercial Consul from the Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Sydney Mr Peng Gang spoke about the steady two-way investment between Australia and China.

"China has accumulated a wealth of experience in energy and road infrastructure, construction machinery, high-speed rail, wind and solar power generation. These products will meet Australia's longer-term economic development needs," Mr Peng said.

"At the same time, China's industrialisation and urbanisation will require energy and resources which is why resources will continue to play an important role in our bilateral trade.

"As China's economy develops further and living standards continue to improve, China will increasingly to look to Australia for meat and dairy products, wool, wine and other farm products."

Deputy Premier of New South Wales the Hon. Andrew Stoner MP launched the University of Sydney-KPMG report Demystifying Chinese investment in Australian agribusiness.

"This report makes a significant and timely contribution regarding Chinese investment in Australian agribusiness, and shows there is scope to explore opportunities for greater Chinese investment here in Australia and New South Wales, not least in the agricultural sector," Mr Stoner said.

"New South Wales' diverse agriculture production and international reputation for quality make us particularly well placed to take advantage of growth from Asia."

Presented by the University of Sydney's China Studies Centre, the Sydney China Business Forum is an annual event to help open dialogue between Australia and China. It is hosted by the City of Sydney and HSBC Bank Australia is the major sponsor.

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