Ludwig promotes wool on Asian tour

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Bob GarnantCountryman

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig's recent visit to China centred on the growing importance of Australia's wool trade.

Mr Ludwig's Asian tour, which also included Japan and the Republic of Korea, was part of bilateral talks on agricultural trade.

Mr Ludwig said he was pleased to join roundtable wool industry discussions in Shanghai from December 7-10.

"We engaged on key issues and opportunities for the wool industry and discussed the needs of our trading partners," he said.

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"This visit and our ongoing relationship with China have direct benefits for Australian farmers."

Mr Ludwig recognised that up to half of Australia's wool exports to China were now consumed domestically.

Wool exports to China were worth $2.24 billion in 2010-11 and accounted for 70 per cent of Australia's clip.

A spokesman for Mr Ludwig said that as Chinese labour costs and higher competition for labour became an obstacle for future trade growth, the need to open new markets for Australian wool was becoming very apparent.

"The Australian wool industry's service body, Australian Wool Innovation, has been working for several years to open markets in other parts of the world, such as Bangladesh and Vietnam," the spokesman said.

"These efforts will work to reduce Australia's reliance on one dominant buyer."

Mr Ludwig's visit to Suzhou, in the Jiangsu province, included a tour of the $10 million state-of-the-art wool processing plant owned by Michell, a South Australian wool exporting company.

The Jiangsu province is a major producer of textiles and an importer of Australian wool and home of the Nanjing Wool Market.

"Australian wool provides the raw material to support China's textile industry, which employs a large number of Chinese workers, whose garments are exported to the world and increasingly consumed in China," Mr Ludwig said.

Mr Ludwig met China's Minister of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, Zhi Shuping, during talks in Beijing.

At their meeting, several protocol agreements were signed.

"These agreements will continue to facilitate Australian wheat and barley imports into China and enable the Chinese to access genetic material from Australian cattle in order to diversify livestock bloodlines," Mr Ludwig said.

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