In the third of our series of interviews conducted at the University of Melbourne's Australia Latin America Dialogue, we probe more deeply into the implications of the rise of China for commodity based economies such as Australia and Latin American countries and focus on what we can learn from one another.
Dr Adrian Hearn from Sydney University points out that China needs to feed its increasingly urbanised population of 1.3 billion, which is driving the purchase of arable land in countries such as Australia and Latin America. This is a matter of great political sensitivity.
The 2012 Lowy Poll showed a whopping 81% of Australians was against the Australian government allowing foreign companies to buy Australian farmland to grow crops or farm livestock. This is also a hot button issue in Latin America, where a number of governments have legislated restrictions on foreign ownership of land.
Adrian also talks about a number of opportunities for two-way investment between Australia and Brazil in mining services, clean water and clean energy, including the production of ethanol in Australia using Brazilian know-how.
The inaugural chairman of the Council on Australian Latin America Relations and independent company director Bernard Wheelahan AM reminds us that Australia should take greater advantage of the business opportunities in the high-growth Latin American market as a prudent strategy of diversification from Asia. There is scope for the big Australian mining companies to act as national flagships over and above their commercial objectives, he says.
Bernard also reminds us that think tanks such as the Lowy Institute should offer some strategic direction to government and business on why they would do well to invest more political and economic capital in Latin America.
In part 1 of this video series we look at educational ties and in part 2 we consider the rise of Brazil.
Photo Peter Casamento, Casamento Photography.