Doing business in China a balancing act: Aldous

Shanghai trade delegation urged to balance ambitions


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The Australian dream of selling every person in China just one sausage and making a fortune is just that – a dream.

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Oriental opportunity: Elders China CEO Craig Aldous told the AccessChina conference there was still a lot of work to be done to establish a beachhead for more Australian products in the Chinese market. Picture: Sally Cripps.

Oriental opportunity: Elders China CEO Craig Aldous told the AccessChina conference there was still a lot of work to be done to establish a beachhead for more Australian products in the Chinese market. Picture: Sally Cripps.

The Australian dream of selling every person in China just one sausage and making a fortune is just that – a dream.

The euphoria of the 217 people taking part in the largest private trade delegation between Australia and China that landed in Shanghai last Sunday was tempered the next day by the knowledgeable words of Elders China CEO Craig Aldous at the opening session of the history-making Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise event.

The company has had 12 years to understand the complexities of doing business with the world’s second-largest economy and in the words of AccessChina’16 project leader Ben Lyons, Craig was the man to speak to about market access.

One of 45 speakers selected for their knowledge, he opened his address with the words of many over the years – maybe substituting socks for sausages – to urge discretion in planning for business expansions.

“Dad thought if he sold 1.4 billion people one sausage – 84 tonnes of meat – that would be a $200m profit.

“For the last 10 years I’ve been running a meat company, and it’s not that easy.

“The reality of doing business here is that it’s a tough, competitive environment.”

Craig told delegates they needed to spend time on the ground in China, learning that they would be operating in a very different legal and regulatory environment to what they were used to.

“Combined with language, geography and cultural differences, you have a cocktail that can mess up your ambitions,” he said. “You need deep pockets and allow for things to go wrong. They generally do.”

He said the secret to speeding up negotiations was to allow more Chinese investment in Australian business.

“If Chinese dollars are invested in produce in Australia, I believe the chances for success are dramatically improved.”

Mind-blowing statistics tossed out throughout the conference – the whole population of Australia was contained within the city that hosted the trade delegation, Shanghai – served to keep remind delegates of the “one sausage” ideal, but Craig said the one truth to keep in mind was the growing middle class with a growing disposable income.

“What it means is that China is inextricably woven into our lives. They contribute to the social fabric of our lives, either by the clothes you wear, the phones you use, or the university students in your suburb.

“China has been around for 5000 years – their rise as a global power is simply restoring it to a position it’s had for most of those years.”

 - Sally Cripps travelled to China as a guest of Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise.

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