Trading Partners: Australia and Asia, 1790-1993

Trading Partners: Australia and Asia, 1790-1993

Trading Partners: Australia and Asia, 1790-1993

Trading Partners: Australia and Asia, 1790-1993

Excerpt

Trade connections between the colony of New South Wales and Asia began in the late eighteenth century when ships unloaded Britain's unwanted gaol inmates at Botany Bay and then under charter to the British East India Company set sail for China or India to take on cargoes of tea before turning homeward. Under colonial regulations, New South Wales traders were not permitted to engage in private commerce with Canton until the abolition of the East India Company's trade monopoly in 1834, although, after 1813, there was some easing of the stringent provisions of the monopoly enabling the conduct of trade with Bengal and the Netherlands East Indies. Colonial strictures notwithstanding, the early Sydney traders were wily and determined: circumvention of the monopoly was not unusual. The lure of substantial profits led them to deal in sealskins, pearlshell, beche-demer (trepang) and sandalwood in Asia.

A second impetus to trade with Asia was provided in the second half of the nineteenth century when some of those Chinese who had travelled to Australia seeking their fortunes in gold, established lucrative businesses instead. Initially, they distributed Chinese products to their countrymen on the goldfields, but, by the 1870s and 1880s they were engaged in a thriving and stable merchandise trade in numerous small shops in Melbourne and Sydney to meet the needs of both a European and a Chinese clientele. The range of goods offered included rice, silks, porcelain, teas, ginger and other delicacies. The China tea trade was of particular importance to the commercial life of the colonial city of Melbourne. In the 1880s, Melbourne was a tea centre second only to London. Imports of tea and sugar accounted for the adverse Australian balance of trade with Asia until the early years of the twentieth century.

The Chinese were not the only dealers in Australia to conduct trade with Asia. A slender, but centuries-old, trade link between South-East Asia and Australia was maintained until at least 1907 by Macassan (Indonesian) fishermen who collected beche-de-mer from Australia's northern shores to be sold to the Chinese, for whom the product was a delicacy. Of much greater significance for Australia's future as a trading nation, however, was the first statistically noted consignment of scoured wool shipped from Victoria to Japan in 1888. Thereafter, Japanese firms appointed agents in Australia with the result that by the 1920s, the Australian wool trade to Japan was firmly established, largely due to the initiative of Japanese wool-buyers. Until at least . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.