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Australians not aware of emerging Asian middle class: trade minister.

SyDNEY (CyHAN)- Australia's trade minister Andrew Robb said he is frustrated the people are not aware of "what's going on" as the demographic change in the Asia Pacific holds great opportunities for Australia's high value products.

The Asia Pacific is undergoing significant social change as the regional middle class grows from 600 million to over 3 billion within the next 35 years as the regional economies grow, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

"It frustrates me often, but I don't think Australians are fully aware of what's going on in the region around us," Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said on Saturday at the launch of the Blackmore Ltd's new infant formula, noting the nation has missed Indonesia's dramatic economic expansion over the past 15 years.

"We are so blessed here. We're a first world country amidst a whole lot of developing and emerging economies," Robb said.

In partnership with diary producer Bega Cheese Ltd, Australian vitamin and health supplement manufacturer Blackmores Ltd launched their highly anticipated infant formula line on Saturday, capitalizing on increased demand from significant regional supply shortages.

"We've very cognizant about mums making sure they can get supply of products," Blackmores chief executive Christine Holgate told Xinhua, noting there is no indication of when the market will heat peak demand.

Eighty percent of the formula will be available for local consumers through pharmacies or direct shipment, while approximately 20 percent will be available for purchase in China via e-commerce platform alibaba.com.

Robb said the growth story of both companies who have operated in the Asian region utilizing the digital economy, particularly China's e-commerce platforms, is providing inspiration for Australian small and medium businesses to capitalize on the burgeoning Asian middle class.

Blackmore's market capitalization has grown from 550 million Australian dollars (377.27 million U.S. dollars) to over 3 billion Australian dollars (2.06 billion U.S. dollars) in one year from growing export earnings, most notably from strong vitamin sales to China. The company's shares closed at 205.50 Australian dollars (140.96 U.S. dollars) on Friday, a 513 percent surge in 12 months, despite local stocks slipping 0.38 percent.

"We're seeing opportunities for small and medium business to get heavily established in other markets in the region in a way they never could before," Robb said.

"Over the next 30 years it will be the best time, the best time that Australia's ever had in a commercial sense."

Through the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and low currency - 69.54 U.S. cents at Friday's Asian close - the opportunities for Australia's highly sought after produce is emerging, Robb said.

However, changes to Australia's foreign investment laws, under senate consideration, will likely hinder Australia's agriculture sector obtaining the 1 trillion Australian dollar's worth of investment to meet Asia's demand for high quality, high value produce in the region's most lucrative market.

Chinese, Japanese and Korean investment into agriculture that exceeds 15 million Australian dollars (10.29 million U.S. dollars), down from 252 million Australian dollars (172.86 million U.S. dollars), will be forced to be reviewed and approved by Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

Singapore and Thailand's threshold remains at 50 million Australian dollars (34.3 million U.S. dollars) while the United States, Australia's largest direct foreign investor, New Zealand and Chile will maintain their over 1 billion Australian dollar (695.4 million U.S. dollar) threshold.

Robb told Xinhua following the product launch "there's a lot of misnomers around" regarding Chinese investment into Australia.

"I think you'll find there's no discrimination."

Australia is very much welcoming China's investment as long as it and any other foreign investment is not contrary to Australia's national interest, Robb said.

"That wasn't true over recent decades.

"We will take investment from any part of the world and we need it in order to realize the opportunities, the spectacular opportunities that are emerging in the countries around us." (Cihan/Xinhua) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jan 16, 2016
Words:679
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