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Premier’s China trade and charm offensive

Premier Peter Malinauskas is leading a state trade delegation to Asia today to entice more international students to South Australia and seek a thaw in punitive Chinese restrictions hitting wine and seafood exporters.

Sep 14, 2023, updated Sep 14, 2023
Main photo: Matt Turner/AAP. Image: Jayde Vandborg/InDaily

Main photo: Matt Turner/AAP. Image: Jayde Vandborg/InDaily

Malinauskas and a 40-strong business delegation this morning embarked on a week-long trade mission to Singapore, China and Hong Kong.

The SA delegation includes representatives from university, education, wine, agriculture, aquaculture, tourism and trade sectors and in China will visit Beijing, Shanghai and Jinan.

Businesses and organisations along for the trip include Thomas Foods International, Food SA, Treasury Wine Estates, Bec Hardy Wines, Ferguson Australia, the South Australia Wine Industry Association, Viterra and Maggie Beer Holdings.

Stopping first in Singapore, the Premier will hold an investment round table and discuss how South Australia can benefit from the 2020 Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement.

Then it’s off to China for the first visit by a South Australian premier since 2019, before the nation imposed crushing tariffs on Australian exports including wine, barley and timber and banned imports of live Australian lobsters.

China in November 2020 imposed duties on Australian wine of between 107 and 212 per cent following an “anti-dumping” inquiry, but the trade hit was widely interpreted as blowback from souring diplomatic relations between Canberra and Beijing.

China had been Australia’s largest wine export market with $1.2 billion worth shipped in 2019/20, with South Australia responsible for 50 per cent of Australian wine production.

In the first full year of the crippling tariffs, Australia’s wine exports plummeted by 30 per cent or $860 million.

South Australian wine sales to China evaporated in 2022 with just $4.9 million in export value recorded to July, while producers attempted to increase sales to other markets.

The SA wine industry in July reported that exports were down 10 million litres, with earnings down $88 million.

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While China has now lifted an 80 per cent tariff imposed on Australian barley, Malinauskas said ongoing restrictions on wine and seafood had impacted South Australians businesses and livelihoods.

“Thousands of South Australians have had their standard of living, their incomes dramatically diminished because of the disengagement (with China),” he said on Wednesday.

The Premier said that a priority of his mission would be to attract international students, in the wake of the move to merge the universities of Adelaide and South Australia.

The government said that before the pandemic there were 12,564 students from mainland China studying in South Australia. They now comprised the second largest cohort of international students enrolled in the state’s schools and universities, with almost 7500 students enrolled between January and June this year.

Despite the trade barriers, Malinauskas said China remained South Australia’s top export market with sales up 48 per cent for the year to July to $2.8 billion, driven by iron ore and concentrates, refined copper, wheat, petroleum products and almonds.

“Progress has been made at a federal government level to stabilise relations with China and I will be using this trip to ensure that at a state level, our relationship remains strong,” he said today.

“I will be advocating on behalf of our world-class capabilities and products, including wine and lobster.”

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