Australia Post’s Christine Holgate finds doors still open in Beijing

Beijing: New Australia Post chief executive Christine Holgate appreciates the door-opening power of heading a large government-owned enterprise when in Beijing, where the state continues to hold significant busines sway.

On a flying visit to China last week, a market she established for Australian vitamins as Blackmores’ chief, Holgate swiftly secured a meeting with the president of China Post, and executives from some of China’s biggest companies.

Two weeks ago she met with the president of the Bank of China, also state-owned. If there is strain in the diplomatic relations between the Australian and Chinese governments, Ms Holgate hasn’t felt it.

“Being an Australian government company is deeply trusted here,” she said.

Australia Post has a $700 million international business that she wants to expand, starting with the small parcels market she knows best from her Blackmores experience, whose growth was driven by e-commerce sales into China.

Australia Post’s inbound small parcels grew 45 per cent in the first half of this financial year, and 90 per cent of the growth was from China.

“There is more trade coming into Australian than anybody knows,” she says.

She wants to use her China e-commerce knowledge to help Australian brands sell more the other way.

“There is a massive opportunity to help Australian companies sell their products through e-commerce platforms in China. To do that they need to get them there… we can become a trusted gateway particularly for small and medium Australian enterprises.”

Blackmores took advantage of the free trade zones China has established. Products imported via ecommerce through the free trade zones can avoid the mountain of red tape that applies to many foreign products sold in China.

Bonded warehouses within these zones facilitate up to $2 trillion in e-commerce business and have driven the business of Chinese e-commerce giants such as, Alibaba and NetEase.

Holgate wants to make the most of Australia Post’s partnership with China Post, which has warehouses in every free trade zone, to speed up customs clearance for Australian products.

Walking through a bonded warehouse today, the range of Australian products on the shelves is narrow, she says – maybe Blackmores vitamins and Ugg boots. Why not Australian honey producers? she asks.

Australia Post could take the honey from the Tasmanian farm, bring it into China, China Post clears it through customs, and passes it on to a local logistics company for timely delivery.

She is setting up a Chinese team in Australia that understands the market, and wants a financial payments relationship with a major bank so that the farmers can get paid.

Holgate denies such a business model would put Australia Post in competition with Alibaba and, and says Australia Post already partners with Alibaba to bring parcels into Australia.

But she also wants to market Australia Post, through its partner Bank of China, as a gateway for Chinese companies to sell their products into Australia.

She adds she is getting government support for the China push, which is seen as creating Australian jobs in a market being cornered by foreign companies.

“The Chinese like Australia. We have the highest manufacturing standards in the world and Chinese shoppers know it,” she says.

The large number of Chinese tourists and international students coming to Australia are driving the e-commerce boom, she says.

“It is people to people that enables these things to happen.”

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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