Virginia, US
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| Simon Haag

The Middle Kingdom

2016 promises to be a watershed year in China-Australia trade relations, with China taking centre stage in world trade as the host of this year’s G20 Summit in September. Following Australia’s ratification of the China Australia Free Trade Agreement in December 2015, China’s commitment to leading and innovating inclusive models of global economic growth bodes well for an enduring economic partnership between the two nations.
The rise in prominence of the G20 in economic development negotiations has overlapped with China’s growing role on the global economic stage. Perhaps, these developments are not such a coincidence. China’s long probation prior to entry to the World Trade Organisation in 2001 is seemingly a distant memory, with the Chinese economy benefitting from the economic reforms introduced at that time as it stabilises into sustained growth; and with the positivity with which China has forged its own identity in the international economy. Notably, China champions the role of emerging markets and developing countries in world trade negotiations and desires outcomes from this year’s G20 that reflect the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This consistency with the broader international relations agenda helps to maximise the possibility of consensus outcomes in G20 negotiations. At the initial G20 Sherpa meeting in January, His Excellency State Councillor Yang Jiechi stressed the importance of the G20 maturing from its genesis as an emergency response to the global financial crisis of 2008, into an institution of long-term global economic governance.
It is appropriate that China now take this formal leadership role in the world economy given its emergence as the preeminent economic powerhouse. In the last three years, China has surpassed the USA in key indicators of trade performance, notwithstanding the US recovery since 2008. This includes Gross Domestic Product, gross value of exports, foreign reserve holdings, and annual economic growth.
For Australia, there are significant benefits in the timing of China’s chairmanship. China’s commitment to shared development and mutually beneficial cooperation will open up long-term trade possibilities for Australian enterprises beyond primary industry; and particularly for small and medium enterprises. For China, trade relations with Australia, as a fellow G20 member, will continue to be strategically important both in terms of the exchange of commodities and services, and the deeper ties between our two nations.  
As part of the G20 deliberations, Fragomen is participating in the Employment Taskforce of the B20 Business Summit, to develop a reform agenda for presentation to the G20 heads of government. We will be advocating for a more consistent approach to the facilitation of labour mobility and migration as a cornerstone of international trade, and look forward to building on the outcomes of our involvement in past B20s in Sydney, Australia in 2014 and Antalya, Turkey in 2015.