By Chris Adams

The economy of Australia is one of the largest in the world, ranking 13th out of more than 200 nations.

But it is still vastly overshadowed by the giants – the United States and China – and navigating in the trade world can sometimes be tricky because of it.

In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, Michaela Browning, the consul general for Australia to Hong Kong and Macau, detailed how her country operates in an era in which all the attention – good and bad – is going to the U.S. and China.

“The fact is economies like Australia are still prepared to embrace a rules-based order,” Browning said.

According to the Australian government, exports in 2018 were at record levels, and ever since its first free trade agreement – with New Zealand in 1983 – trade agreements have reduced costs for Australian exporters and helped Australian goods and services into foreign markets. By the time agreements Australia is now seeking are finalized, the nation’s free trade agreements will cover nearly 90 percent of Australian trade. The country is the world’s largest exporter of iron ore, coal, unwrought lead and wool, and the second-largest exporter of aluminium ores, beef, lentils and cotton.

Browning described how Australia has fought for more open trading, and how its reasons for doing so remain valid.

“If economies with very limited budgets like Australia can do it, in the face of the big economies with huge political clout and advantages, then others should be able to do so,” she said. “And we should be reminding those economies of that.”

The reason, she said, is simple: It helps economies as a whole. “You would lift more people out of poverty by prompting fair and open trade than anything else you could do,” she said.