Australia can play a key role in prolonging the growth of Asian economies through the provision of professional, legal, financial and wealth management services as well as capital, according to global finance experts at today's In the Zone conference at The University of Western Australia.
Delegates heard how the flow of wealth from the traditional centres of capital in the developed world to Asia had continued steadily since the beginning of the global economic crisis.
However, Professor Joseph Fan, Director, Institute of Economics and Finance at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, warned that the sustainability of Asian economies was a growing concern.
He said that in China, sustainability was affected by the many different levels of government and the complexity of relationships and politics that companies needed to navigate in order to do business.
Professor Fan said corruption was a critical issue, not just in China, but in many Asian countries. "It doesn't matter if you do business in a democracy or a dictatorship, in a free market or a controlled economy, it all has to do with the institutions and quality of bureaucrats," he said. "Political leadership controls just about every critical business resource."
Professor Fan said opportunities for Australian businesses in Asia included wealth management. "It is not just about investment but the potential to coach business owners and encourage them. Australia can provide professionalism to help sustain Asian economic growth," he said.
Ms Cathryn Carver, Managing Director, Institutional Australia and Global Institutional Relationships Banking, ANZ, agreed that the provision of Australian expertise was an opportunity, as was the ability to source capital from Asia.
Ms Carver said a key feature of the current Asian financial system was shift from traditional investment flows from east to west, to intra-Asian flows.
"The size of ‘Asia funding Asia' could grow at least 40 per cent over the next 10 to 15 years," she said.
Ms Carver added that the general financial power shift from the West to the East was not temporary. "Asia's rise in influencing the world and Australia is a real game-changer," she said.
Dr Philippa Malmgren, President, Principalis, spoke of the need to focus on inflation, which was a catalyst for civil unrest in some countries, and concerns about security of supply of food, energy and raw materials.
She said a common view of investment in Australia as a proxy for investment in China was not necessarily correct, with increasing investment levels in this country more a hedge against inflation.
She added: "In Western Australia there is such a focus on the relationship with China, yet Western Australia and Australia are capable of producing lots of hard assets beyond mining."
Professor Malmgren said agricultural farmland in Australia was a sought-after global asset.
In the Zone is an intensive meeting of national and international leaders from the business, government and academic sectors.
With the theme ‘The Geography of Global Prosperity', the conference provides an opportunity for discussion and debate about the increasingly complex global neighbourhood and key policy questions facing Australia and the region.
The conference follows the success of the 2009 In the Zone Conference and the 2011 Business Forum.
For more information about the In the Zone conference: www.zone.uwa.edu.au