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The recent implementation of ChAFTA, the China-Australian Free Trade Agreement, opens doors to Australian enterprise that remain closed to every other nation in the world. ChAFTA establishes Australia as a “Most Favoured Nation” with China, keeping agreements between the two elevated above those with China’s other trading partners.

In the industry and services sectors specifically addressed by ChAFTA, Australian companies can now operate subsidiaries within China’s borders, or at least operate there with fewer restrictions than those applied to companies from other countries.  These extraordinary business opportunities encompass several industry sectors and, more significantly, services sectors never before accessible to non-Chinese providers.

Educational Services Exports

Australia is currently third in the world for international students (behind the United Kingdom and the United States) and is ranked 9th overall in the Universitas 2012 U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems. Over time, Australian schools have educated 15 Nobel Prize laureates, launched more than 2.5 million international graduates, and impacted the lives of more than 1,000,000,000 people.

China recognizes Australia’s commitment to higher learning and has agreed to substantially expand its citizen’s access to Australia’s exemplary education systems. Already, China is Australia’s largest education export market, attributed with more than AU $4 B in 2013-2014. CHAFTA will markedly expand that value:


  • China will increase its internal recruiting opportunities for Australian educational institutes;
  • It will also increase both student and teacher exchanges to provide Australians with the language skills they’ll need to engage more meaningfully with their Chinese counterparts;
  • Reciprocity of educator and student qualifications will allow easier transitions, and
  • Both academic and researcher mobility will allow a smooth flow between Chinese nationals and their Australian schools.

To accomplish these educational goals, China has agreed to list on “study abroad” website 77 private Australian higher-ed schools as acceptable options for its higher education students. This almost doubles the list of eligible Australian schools (currently set at 105) and promises to generate an additional  $4 B to the Australian economy. The schools are included on the Australian Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS), and China has agreed to consider adding more CRICOS schools in the future.

Challenges Facing Australian Educators

Like other aspects of doing business in China, Chinese industrial, cultural and social norms will most likely present difficulties that can inhibit or impede progress on establishing secure and beneficial relationships. Although China has made great strides nationally in reducing the occurrence of unfair practices, those circumstances may remain in regional or local areas.

As ChAFTA becomes fully operational, it is expected that Australians will experience fewer corporate challenges and more beneficial support services, like simplified registration processes, reduced regulations, financial convertibility between AU dollars and Chinese RMB, and even taxation benefits.

Until then, however, it is wise for anyone contemplating doing business in China to do due diligence research regarding potential Chinese partners. Currently, national Chinese regulations require that all foreign investments be registered with the appropriate local and regional governments. These Chinese administrative processes can be slow and bureaucratic, and may differ from region to region. Taxation, accounting, legal statuses and other enterprise-related processes will also need to comply with Chinese standards. Travel will present roadblocks, especially as China’s internal transportation systems are modified to accomplish ChAFTA goals. Again, regional and local systems may implement both old and new standards differently from each other.

The opportunities presented to Australian commerce by ChAFTA won’t last forever, and timely, comprehensive action will best ensure future success in the Chinese educational services field. Like the manufacturing sector, Australian companies looking to take advantage of ChAFTA’s remarkable trade opportunities will certainly benefit from the services of an experienced Chinese markets consultant. For more than a decade, Vantage has been guiding international industries through the maze of Chinese customs, laws and practices.  Call me to discuss how your enterprise can gain access to China’s new educational services opportunities.

If you are interested in knowing more about China, download the first free chapters  of my book here.



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