Will China continue to be Australia’s biggest trading partner?

Chinese bills may have fallen in Australia, but it ‘will be back’ 

Aerial view of residential houses in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. ShuangLi/Shutterstock

China is known to be Australia’s biggest trading partner, including the country’s biggest source of foreign investment, but tensions over the past two years have caused a slump between the two nations, according to news.com.au 

As stated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, China was Australia’s ninth-largest foreign investor by the end of 2019, with AUD78.2 billion (USD59.4 billion). Despite that, a large amount of Chinese funding comes from Hong Kong, coming in fifth place with AUD141 billion 

According to the Australia National University’s Chinese Investment in Australia (CHIIA) database, new Chinese commercial investment in Australia dropped by almost half in 2019 to AUD2.5 billion.  

CHIIA’s data also indicated huge drops in commercial property, mining, real estate, manufacturing, and agriculture, but adequate increases in construction, education, and finance.  

Lead analyst Mary Ming Sheng said to The Australian Financial Review: “Judging from the information so far this year, we’d expect Chinese investment to be lower in 2020. That’s partly because of COVID-19 but also because the Australian investment environment has tightened.”  

Georg Chmiel, executive chairman of Juwai, said that China’s economy is recovering satisfactorily and Chinese buying “will be back.”

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“The good news about Chinese real estate investment is that China’s economy is doing well, buyers have money and motivation, and Australia’s reputation and desirability have soared due to its impressive response to the pandemic. The bad news is that transactions have dropped precipitously due to travel bans and other practical difficulties. Chinese buying is down, but it will be back,” Chmiel added.  

Despite overall numbers declining, a few high-profile transactions have been sold to Chinese buyers, including the sale of two historic Victorian pastoral properties.