International affairs

Australia-US partnership no dilemma for trade with China

There is no dilemma for Australia having the US as it leading ally and strategic partner, and China as its largest trading partner, American Embassy, US Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey L Bleich told a CEDA audience in Perth.

There is no dilemma for Australia in having the US as its leading ally and strategic partner, and China as its largest trading partner, American Embassy, US Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey L Bleich told a CEDA audience in Perth.

"Both the US and Australia have an enormous stake in the rise of Asia," he said.

As 30 million Chinese people are becoming urbanised every year, Australian iron ore and coal will be needed to meet demand, he said.

"This makes the Australian economy stronger, the US economy stronger, and the Chinese economy stronger," he said.

"The Australian, Chinese and US economies are interdependent and we are all heavily invested into each other's markets and each other's success."

Mr Bleich emphasised that the US welcomes a strong, prosperous China, and looks to become more integrated in the Asia Pacific region.

As partners, Australia and the US are helping each other meet the challenges of the next decade, he said.

Mr Bleich said the elements of an economic relationship involve not just trade numbers for investment, but a strong relationship between two countries with shared values.

"When it comes to investment, Australia's greatest friend and benefactor in the world is the US," he said.

"US direct investment in Australia has doubled from 2006 to 2010, from $67 billion to $134 billion.

"US foreign direct investment (FDI) in Australia exceeds our investment in every other Asia Pacific economy, including Japan, where we have $113 billion in investment, and China, where we have (invested) about $6 billion."

Mr Bleich said the US believes that open, rules based economies are the ones most likely to succeed in the Asia Pacific century.

He highlighted that many American companies are heavily invested in huge projects in Western Australia and Queensland, and are here for the long term.

"America's position as leading FDI contributor in Australia is just going to keep growing stronger, and those margins are only going to continue to grow over the next number of years," he said.

"The US is not in danger of being overtaken by any other of Australia's economic partners."

Mr Bleich said US investment in technology, human resources, and personal and business relationships are critical to advancing Australia's economy.

"By sharing some of our most sensitive technology, and intellectual property here, we are able to unlock exports and investment in Australia that will permit the exploitation of crucial parts of the Australian economy," he said.

Mr Bleich also outlined the Joint Skills Initiative (JSI) which is designed to help address skills shortages in Australia's mining and construction industries.

By providing available, skilled and experienced American workers, key construction projects won't be held back as there are not enough skilled tradesmen to handle the investment, he said.

"Many of our tradespeople served in the military, are used to being in remote locations, away from their families and will leave when they are done," he said.

"So we are not taking jobs away from Australians; we are making progress until all Australians are fully trained to take on the same roles."

In regard to the US economy, My Bleich described the recovery as solid.

He said the US is experiencing a rising GDP, and has 22 months of job growth.

The shale gas revolution is contributing to this, and is the biggest development in the manufacturing sector since the 1970s.

"The US still has one of the world's most productive and flexible workforces... and US population growth is expected to increase over the next two decades," he said.

Lastly, Mr Bleich said Australia and the US are more than business partners, we are allies.

"Our shared vision provides confidence... we are going to thrive in this Asia Pacific century. We both have a major stake in the peaceful rise of Asia to reinforce... our strong bilateral relationship," he said.