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Trade – Trade with China

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 5 June 2023

Tags: China, Trade, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, as you know the Greens have been quite critical of the Tasmanian Government for being too heavily reliant on trade with China. But, you would also be aware that the Chinese Government has announced that it is lifting its trade sanctions on timber imports from Australia. Are you able to give a year-by-year breakdown of timber exports out of the port, just for the period of COVID-19 so far, which as we know is not over?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Could you allow us to have a bit of time in doing that?

Ms O'CONNOR - While you're doing that, how much has the Tasmanian Government diversified its trading partners, so that we're not over-reliant on a regime which is prepared to use trade to punish nations it feels have fallen out of line?

Mr ROCKLIFF - The disruption of the pandemic significantly impacted our trade with China, and particularly for markets such as our rock lobster, for example. And so, one of the diversification opportunities - and please, those at the table correct me if I am wrong - was diversifying into Singapore with the Red Dragon Rock Lobster opportunity.

The other proactive action is the trade advocates that we've deployed in the last few years into Japan, Singapore and the United States. That's a proactive example of diversification away from having all our eggs in one basket, as some people might say.

Ms O'CONNOR - It was true.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I was concerned about our over-reliance in China.

Ms O'CONNOR - Any plans to send a trade delegation to Taiwan, for example, so we can support a thriving little democracy?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Tasmania's top goods export markets are currently China, USA, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. I've been to South Korea and Japan earlier this year. At numbers six to nine, if you like, is Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. China's share of Tasmania's goods export market has dropped from 40 per cent in 2020-21 to 33 per cent.

Ms O'CONNOR - It’s a good start.

Mr ROCKLIFF - It dropped from 40 per cent to 33.1 per cent in the last two years. We expect the recovery of our trade in international services to continue, and in particular in tourism and education, as conditions change and more international travel resumes. We can expect some downturn of exports in a few of our key destinations from the effects of the global economic challenge, such as South Korea, I'm advised. That's been a significant reduction, but we've been very proactive.

Last year I had a trade mission to Vietnam and Singapore. The focus was food and beverage, but also advanced manufacturing. We had Japan and South Korea this year, which was again food and beverage but also advanced manufacturing - particularly in South Korea.

What I can tell you about is the enormous interest in Tasmania's 100 per cent renewable energy capacity and our renewable investment, and how far behind, if you like, some of the countries in that area are with their renewable energy capacity - and how interested they are in where we are at. I see that a potential export opportunity.

Ms O'CONNOR - Can I just say what a big difference it is between the trade strategy from even a few years ago, when your ministers and the Coordinator-General were going on trade missions to China about twice a year. That's very positive. Do you expect this diversification strategy to continue?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Yes, I do. It needs to continue. China is still our largest export market

Ms O'CONNOR - Sure; but you wouldn't want to be totally reliant them, would you; because they'll flatten us, on a whim.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Diversification is very important and that's part of our trade strategy - particularly putting advocates in key locations. That's been a good investment, in my view.

Ms O'CONNOR - Do we have answers to the question on timber exports?

Mr ROCKLIFF - The Minister for Resources will, I'm sure.

Ms O'CONNOR - I thought it might come under the Trade portfolio.

Mr EVANS - I'm advised that we don't have that data. The exports are transhipped through Melbourne so they are not captured in the available data that we have. But, I'm sure the Minister for Resources -

Ms O'CONNOR - It's not that the data isn't captured; it's just not held by Trade?

Mr EVANS - No, we don't have it.

Ms O'CONNOR - Premier, does the Office of the Coordinator-General work to you at all as Trade minister?

Mr ROCKLIFF - I wouldn't describe it as working to me, the Coordinator-General has been on trade missions with me-

Ms O'CONNOR - That's right, many, probably more than all the ministers put together really. You don't need to answer that. Has the Coordinator-General led any trade delegations to China in the last couple of years?

Mr ROCKLIFF - The advice I have is no.

Ms O'CONNOR - That's interesting isn't it, because I remember Will Hodgman and Peter Gutwein used to get up and talk about how wonderful it was that another trade delegation had gone to China. There has been quite a significant shift in trade policy, hasn't there?

Mr ROCKLIFF - There is a shift in terms of diversifying our markets, that is correct. You'd be aware of the relationship between our national government and China, which has been challenging in the past couple of years. The new federal government appears to be thawing out that relationship.

Ms O'CONNOR - Let's hope it doesn't come at the cost of our sovereignty. Is there any planned trade delegation to China upcoming or has it just been decided that those trade delegations are not so valuable anymore?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Every trade mission is of value but we are concentrating on the areas that I mentioned in my opening statement, including the United States, which will be early next year, the United Kingdom in early September.

Ms O'CONNOR - Can you confirm we have a really interesting trading relationship with Taiwan in relation to education?


Ms O'CONNOR - Isn't there an engagement on educational opportunities and that sort of thing? I will take that on notice. Premier, would you ever consider going on a trade delegation to Taiwan?

Mr ROCKLIFF - It's our fifth-largest goods market.

Ms O'CONNOR - That's right. There hasn't been one to Taiwan in 20 or 30 years. I can't imagine why.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I went to Taiwan around 2012.

Ms O'CONNOR - Good, but not as Premier. Don't you think it would mean a lot to the government of that independent democratic state if a Premier like yourself went on a trade delegation to our fifth-largest trading partner?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Potentially, yes.

Mr EVANS - Just to add, we recently supported the delegation from Fruit Growers Tasmania to visit Taiwan last year.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Towards the end of this year, we will be formulating the next two year mission plan to take us into the end of 2025. Our emphasis there will be evident.