Having just returned from Boao, where I accompanied Trade Minister Dr
Emerson as his Mandarin Interpreter, the talk centred on China’s
currency and the rise of the BRICS bloc. It was the 10
Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Forum which has become the “Davos” of our
region. Yet Australia appeared greatly under-represented at this major
meeting of world opinion leaders.
Australia seems to be facing increasing marginalisation, with BRICS
countries now all the rage. President Hu referred to BRICS, as “a new
model of global economic cooperation and an important practice of
multilateralism.” China already has Currency Trade Agreements in place
with ASEAN (now China’s fourth largest trading partner) and even New
Zealand has signed one recently. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South
Africa also signed an agreement to use their own currencies instead of
the US dollar in issuing credit or grants to each other and is the first
of its kind in financial cooperation between the BRICS countries.
In leaving the USA out in the cold, Russian President Dmitry
Medvedev, summed up the BRICS ideals: “Russia’s future, the
modernisation of our Siberia and the Far East are inseparably connected
with the Asia-Pacific region,” the Russian president told the Forum.
Analysts say the BRICS grouping of the world’s major emerging economies
seeks to promote itself as a counterweight to established Western powers
and raise the global influence of developing nations.
President Hu in his keynote address reminded us that over the past
decade, China imported US$687 billion of goods on average every year,
creating over 14 million jobs in related countries and regions. This
showed that the better China developed, the greater the contribution it
would make to the world.
Meanwhile Australia may struggle for a seat at the table – FTA talks
have stalled, and PM Gillard on her East Asian tour has left China till
last and lavished praise on Japan and Korea. As John Garnaut reminds us
in today’s Age – last year Australia exported $58 billion in goods and
services (up 37% on the previous year) to China compared to $20.4
billion to Korea and $55 billion to Japan. He concludes that “The PM may
have got off on the wrong foot”. We’ll be watching with great interest.