Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright: WA’s Trade and Economic Development with Asia

The report titled, ‘Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright? WA’s Trade and Economic Development with Asia’ examines the issues affecting current trading patterns with Asia, and highlights opportunities for enhanced future trade and strengthened economic relationships with China, Japan, and other countries in the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions.

The report is the fifth in the Focus on Western Australia Series and was launched at a breakfast event hosted at The Hyatt Regency in Perth city. Prominent government, industry and community leaders attended the event and discussed how best the WA economy can best be positioned to take advantage of emerging developments in Asia.

The discussion panel included Deputy Director General, Strategic Policy Department of State Development Nicky Cusworth, Chief Operating Officer, Western Region APPEA Stedman Ellis, Chief Executive Officer Tourism WA Stephanie Buckland, and Director of Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Alan Duncan. A question and answer panel session was facilitated by MC and state political editor from the West Australian, Gareth Parker.

Professor Alan Duncan said international trade had a role to play in strengthening industrial sectors, such as the mining and resources sectors within the WA economy, and most critically, diversifying the state’s exports to a greater extent.

“China will remain a strong market for Western Australia’s primary resources. However WA is extremely well positioned to capitalise on new trading opportunities beyond China and Japan, both in terms of the scale and composition of its trade with Asian partners,” says Professor Duncan.

The report examines how economic liberalisation across the Asian continent, with higher incomes among the rising middle class in Asia’s emerging economies, has created a growing demand for prestige and luxury commodities. Demand for gold, agriculture and food, as well as tourism and education exports are leading to emerging opportunities for WA to service demand from other Asian trading partners including Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and India.

“The state’s trade and economic development strategies should certainly include a ‘focus on quality’ to capitalise on opportunities to sell to new markets for hi-tech or high-end products,” explains Professor Duncan.

The traditional notion of the bilateral trader (we sell – you buy) is giving way to more sophisticated international partnerships. One of the challenges for Western Australia is to bridge the gap between knowledge and innovation, and commercialisation and exports.

According to the report, high exchange rates have affected the competitiveness of WA manufacturing and there is a clear need for new investment. There is also some nervousness about the provisions under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

“Trade agreements shouldn’t be allowed to affect labour market conditions, or crowd out local labour market opportunities,” says Professor Duncan. “There is no reason why FTAs shouldn’t deliver value to Western Australia – as long as the state’s workforce is protected and supported.”

Other key findings in the report show that education is an attractor to international business and investment and ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students) has been a growing industry. It suggests that the education sector should not be regarded just as a provider of education and innovation, but should also be promoted as a valuable piece of infrastructure through which to attract skilled labour to the state, and to build global business networks.

To read the full report, please download the pdf below: