Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Bring US, Asia together or pay the price: Andrew Robb
Former trade minister Andrew Robb has warned Australia could miss out on a new era of prosperity driven by Chinese resources demand if it fails to support greater power sharing in the region between the US and Asian superpowers.
The architect of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement has told the Minerals Council of Australia that US attempts to contain China were “futile and counter-productive” and Australia needed to use its influence as a middle power to ensure “sensible outcomes”.
Mr Robb, who works as a consultant for Chinese company Landbridge and does business across the region, said the coming transition of power in the Indo-Pacific was “the biggest opportunity and potentially the biggest threat” to securing Australia’s economic future.
“My simple thesis tonight is that an unprecedented and unexpected surge in demand from one country, China, drove the mining boom, and further new demand from China and other countries in our region can sustain such growth for several decades if we play our cards correctly,” Mr Robb told the MCA’s annual dinner last night.
He said Australia was witnessing the re-emergence of China and India as regional powerhouses — “positions they enjoyed for 18 of the last 20 centuries”.
“Progressively this century these two countries, constituting together three billion of the world’s population, will share regional and global political and economic power, not with the Roman and Turkish empires this time, but with the US,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the US appears yet to accept this inevitability, with both sides of the political aisle in Washington endlessly focusing on ‘containment’ of China — a futile and counter-productive approach in my view.”
Mr Robb took up an $880,000 consultancy with Landbridge, run by Chinese billionaire Ye Cheng, when he left politics in July 2016.
He told The Australian he represented Landbridge’s interests overseas but not in Australia, and was unsure whether he would have to sign the government’s new foreign-interest register, under foreign influence laws that have inflamed tensions with China.
Under the new laws, lobbyists are required to declare their interests if they undertake work “within Australia” on behalf of foreign entities.
Mr Robb, who has made 26 business trips to Asia since 2016, most of them to China, has previously urged the federal government to “urgently” improve its strained relationship with Beijing.
He told the MCA that mining was the Australian industry most exposed to the region’s changing geopolitical environment, and the sector should help Australia “navigate this increasingly tense power struggle”.
“The alternative of leaving two bulls in a paddock to fight it out is no answer,” he said.
Mr Robb warned the “bloated, dysfunctional and costly project- approval processes” was also a key risk for the industry.
“Our regulations can be a great strength for Australia, but it must be done in a commonsense and efficient manner,” he said.
Mr Robb highlighted the almost five-fold increase in the value of Australia’s annual resources exports to China since 2006-07.
Ex politicians would sell their own mother for the the mighty dollar and their poor ethics;but I suppose ethics is a foreign word to pollies!1 HOUR AGO
If we do not have to sell our collective soul for it then I am all for making a buck -- with anyone, not just with China. We can welcome the US, Japan, India, Britain, the EU, the more the merrier. Diversity is the key for Australia's self-reliance and Australia will be better for it. On the other hand, a Faustian pack for a quick buck will in the long run end in tears -- do not do it.
Isn't it interesting how, once the politicians take a Chinese employer and their money, they start singing from the Chinese songbook? They are imploring us to be "sensible", and accept Chinese domination. Lovely--to be dominated by a Communist dictatorship. Can't wait!
And how should Australia play its cards, Andrew Robb ?