Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan has highlighted opportunities for Australian businesses to enter Asian consumer markets, rather than “hitching a ride as a passenger in the Asian Century”.
In a speech to the Australia China Business Council today, Swan said Australia is on “the right side of the world” in the Asian century and has an opportunity to capitalise on its position.
“The unprecedented opportunities on offer from the Asian century will extend far beyond the mining boom, which is only the first taste of Asia’s rise,” Swan said.
“Increasingly, it will be the growing prosperity of Asian populations that shape the opportunities and challenges facing Australia.”
Swan said China’s urban population will increase by 216 million people between 2012 and 2025, based on projections by the United Nations.
“Throw in India and Indonesia, and the combined increase in the urban population over that period is projected to be more than 400 million,” he said.
“As incomes rise, the growing cities of the Asian century will be populated by an increasingly prosperous and ambitious Asian middle class.”
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Swan said Asia will evolve to become not only the world’s largest production zone but also the world’s largest consumption zone.
“Asia will demand more and better consumer goods, like complex consumer durables and high-end electronics, which were previously available only to the wealthy in society,” Swan said.
“And they’ll demand more sophisticated services both at home and abroad [in] education, recreation, healthcare, financial services [and] travel.”
“They will demand better homes, less polluted environments and more leisure for cultural pursuits and personal development.”
“They will demand all the trimmings of one of the greatest economic and humanitarian achievements of our age – the lifting of hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”
According to Swan, Australia can take advantage of its “prized position” by reversing the slowdown in productivity growth.
“This is why we need to make the case for ongoing domestic reforms, irrespective of how Asian growth evolves,” he said.
“The second key area we must continue to focus on is deepening our engagement with the region.”
“Australia and Australians have well-established relations with Asia, but I believe there is always scope to grow and improve these.”
Swan said another way in which Australia can advance in the Asian Century is through business-to-business and people-to-people links.
“The respect formed in conducting repeat business… will sustain our engagement with Asia into the future,” he said.
“It will be these cultural, educational and commercial foundations that will support our success in the Asian Century.”
“And while government can assist in facilitating this, ultimately it is the responsibility of everyone… to make their own inspired choice to ensure they are on the right side of history.”