Doing Business in China: opportunities and challenges for Australian companies

Australian businesses are optimistic about the free trade agreement with China, according to a new report outlining the experiences of Australian companies operating in the economic powerhouse.

The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Business and Economics worked in partnership with the China-Australia Chamber of Commerce (AustCham) and KPMG to produce the Doing Business in China Report.

Sidney Myer Chair of Commerce and Faculty Dean Professor Paul Kofman said the comprehensive survey of 100 Australian businesses is long overdue.

“AustCham Beijing have recognised the need for a longitudinal survey of Australian businesses to better evaluate the impact of trade liberalization and specific trade agreements, as well as the general business conditions in doing business in and with China,” Professor Kofman said.

“The survey also gives a better understanding of why Australian companies engage in business with China, and whether that engagement delivers the business objectives.”

Professor Kofman said the report highlights that the still young China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) is seen as a catalyst unlocking future business opportunities.

Over two thirds of the respondents cite ChAFTA as having a positive impact on Australian businesses in China.

Other key findings include:

  • In the last financial year, 52 percent of survey respondents said their financial performance in China was profitable.
  • 55 percent said that doing business with China was somewhat difficult.
  • Australian businesses felt increased engagement/attention from Chinese authorities positively impacted them. For instance, 26% felt optimistic about new IP protection measures, notwithstanding just over 2/3 were neutral.

“China will continue its strong demand for Australia’s primary commodities, but it won’t do so at the same exponential growth rates,” Professor Kofman said.

“Australia’s services sector on the other hand is extremely well placed to contribute to building that social infrastructure. It will be exciting to observe that transition in trading experience unfold in future surveys.”