Australian businesses should link with China for Belt and Road opportunities: expert

Updated 2017-05-04 14:30:28 Xinhua

Australian businesses should engage directly with their Chinese counterparts to take up the opportunities that the Belt and Road Initiative will provide, an Australian expert said.

Proposed by China in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to build an infrastructure and trade network that spans across the globe, linking Asia with Europe and Africa, along the ancient Silk Road trading routes.

Hans Hendrischke, Professor of Chinese Business and Management at the University of Sydney, told Xinhua on Wednesday that Australia should be viewing the Belt and Road Initiative through the mindset of what it actually is, an economic proposal, rather than attributing it to any kind of strategic development.

"That is something to keep in mind for future development. The focus should be on the commercial benefits, that provide benefits for both sides," Hendrischke said.

The expert believes that Australia is missing a multitude of opportunities that have been opened up by the initiative, as increased levels of funding are being put into the emerging countries are part of the ambitious project across the globe, leaving Australia somewhat lagging behind.

However, he still believes that some progress is being made.

"There are opportunities where Australia is becoming involved, for example in Darwin where the Landbridge Group has leased the Port of Darwin and is planning to set up a new commercial development there, a very large one," Hendrischke said.

"There are opportunities, and there would be more, so it is a question of how to structure that."

Hendrischke is encouraged by the level of cooperation and investment that is currently taking place between the two countries.

"Chinese investment that is coming into Australia, especially in areas such as agriculture and health, is investment that in the end brings goods back into China," Hendrischke said.

"This is clearly part of the overall package that comes with investment."

In a recent report that the learned expert co-authored with KPMG, Demystifying Chinese Investment in Asia 2017, it was shown that over the course of the last year, Chinese investment into Australia grew by roughly 12 percent, which Hendrischke said could, and should be higher.

"Chinese investment in Australia grew by just under 12 percent, while Chinese investment in the U.S. grew about 200 percent, and 70 percent in the European Union," Hendrischke said.

The positive aspect of that is it shows where Australia can grow and where other markets are growing ahead of us, he said.

One of these areas is tourism, which Hendrischke contends will be immensely benefited by even further Chinese investment, which has the potential to have a knock-on effect into other sectors.

"Australia is a package deal. Tourism is linked to education, it's linked to healthcare and health services, it's linked to investment in residential areas, commercial investment in hospitality," Hendrischke said.

"It all links together and the various elements complement and reinforce each other."

The professor believes the way forward for Chinese companies to succeed in Australia is through establishing partnerships with existing Australian entities.

Looking ahead, with the upcoming Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation to be held in Beijing, Hendrischke anticipates a bright future for the initiative, and hopes for increased involvement in the transformational project by Australia.

"I see Belt and Road as an approach to globalization, and that's where China sees its strength and opportunities to integrate in a step-by-step process, starting with the regions that are closest to China," Hendrischke said.

"That includes from the far side, central Asia, but importantly, it will involve a closer integration of Australia with our southeast Asian neighbors."

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