COVID-19 will have a profound impact on Australia’s economy and the region that we live in. While the Australian and the global economy were already slowing before the beginning of this year, it seems clear that we are headed for a period of economic growth below our long-term trend.
Australia will have to look for new sources of growth if future generations are going to enjoy the standard of living that we have become accustomed to. Asia presents an attractive option, but to succeed we will have to tackle some difficult reform issues at home and we must lift our economic engagement in Asia.
By any measure, Australia has managed the pandemic well. Australia will emerge from it with an enhanced reputation as a reliable partner with strong governance systems and clean, green, safe products.
As one of the few developed economies in our region, we are well placed to help other countries prosper in the coming decades. A prosperous Asia will be good for the region’s people, but it is also good for our economic and security interests.
- Team Australia: Australia should present a single Team Australia face to our trading and investment partners through its new national brand based on its competitive advantages and enhanced cooperation between business and government. Boosting exports to 35% of GDP by 2030 is a key target.
- Domestic coordination: Business and government must strengthen Team Australia within our own borders by combining advisory and information resources and making them more accessible to businesses in Asia.
- China relations: Australia must maintain a comprehensive and multi-faceted economic relationship with China in a strategy which focusses on the national interest but based on the principle of “China and” rather than “China or.” The new National Cabinet approach and the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations should play a role in this.
- Open economy: Australia must maintain its bi-partisan commitment to free movement of goods, capital and people built on a targeted skilled migration program, talent mobility, robust trade and economic diplomacy, and open and transparent access for foreign investment. New investment rules should be applied rapidly and explained clearly to avoid any misunderstanding.
- Diaspora and talent: Australia should engage its Asian-Australian and diaspora communities and talent more effectively in pursuing economic engagement with Asia. A National Talent Commissioner could play a catalytic role in doing this.