The Australian government has called on China to give dairy and vitamin exporters time to comply with new e-commerce rules that could threaten their access to the booming market if they do not have the appropriate licensing by January.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, who is leading a delegation of 150 Australian importers in China this week, also said Prime Minister Scott Morrison was unlikely to visit Beijing this year because of his tight travel schedule.
Asked to respond to a report in The Australian Financial Review that exporters were seeking an extension to a “grace period” to comply with new cross-border e-commerce rules in China, Mr Birmingham said companies needed enough time to comply with the regulations that are shrouded in uncertainty.
However, he ruled out making an official representation to China on the issue as some other governments have done.
“We are watching some of those implications quite closely and have been monitoring some of the changes, including the way in which labelling requirements might be made,” he said on Tuesday.
“We would want to make sure that perhaps as China moves to modernise some of its rules in that regard that would also give appropriate transition times for businesses to ensure they are ready to comply with them.”
Mr Birmingham is expected to sign up to a dozen memorandums of understanding between Australian and Chinese companies worth a total of $15 billion.
His visit to Shanghai for President Xi Jinping’s import-themed trade fair was followed by the arrival of Foreign Minister Marise Payne in Beijing on Wednesday. It will be the first visit by an Australian foreign minister to China in more than two years.
Trade spat positive for some
Meanwhile, a survey released by the Australian Chamber of Commerce China and KPMG in China found two-thirds of Australian companies in China planned to increase their investment.
Only 28 per cent said US-China trade sanctions had negatively impacted their business while 12 per cent said the trade spat had been positive for them.
About 72 per cent of those surveyed said China remained a challenging place to do business.
Many companies said tensions in the Australia-China relationship was the biggest challenge.
The 2018 Doing Business in China report surveyed 165 companies.
“Despite the vote of confidence in the future of the Chinese market, changed market demands, unclear laws, rising labour costs and market access are still of concern. Local partner requirements have dropped significantly as a primary concern,” the survey found.