China may not be seeing the same double-digit growth it was during the mining boom, but it will still be the greatest opportunity for Aussie miners to sell their commodities, says a senior economist.

While it is essentially a “battle of the superpowers” between China and the US, China will ultimately be the victor, chief economist Rick Newnham of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia told an industry gathering in Perth on Tuesday.

“China is set to be the world’s largest economy and very soon will overtake the US and it will leap-frog it quite far beyond that,” Mr Newnham said.

“The Chinese economy is growing between 6 and 7 per cent each year. Anything that grows at 7 per cent each year for 10 years doubles in size.

“That is unheard of at any point in history that a nation would grow that quickly.”

China is the largest trading partner for 124 countries, while the US is only the largest trading partner for 56 countries.

The Asian powerhouse is Australia’s largest trading partner accounting for almost half of all our exports.

Despite China’s slower growth rate, it is still considered an emerging economy, which presents the greatest trade opportunity for Australian miners.

“The greatest opportunity still remains emerging economies,” Mr Newnham said.

“These are nations like the BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China.

“So these nations are the ones that are pushing things forward and we are lucky to be in the region with some of the largest countries that are now emerging.”

China’s growth is largely due to its massive population, a slowly opening economy and an increase in people considered middle class.

Commodities in demand 

China’s massive One Belt, One Road or “Silk Road” program to rebuild trade routes connecting the country to other parts of the world is also opening up new opportunities for Aussie miners.

The multi-trillion-dollar project involves new rail, road and maritime infrastructure in some 70 countries.

The 400 core projects are expected to drive significant demand for construction materials and could deliver up to 150 million tonnes of incremental steel demand.

In turn, this would drive demand for the components used in steel such as iron ore and coking coal. Copper would also be a highly sought-after commodity.

Demand for other commodities such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and other battery metals is also ramping up with China’s push to combat pollution and encourage the uptake of electric vehicles and green energy solutions.

Exports lead to growth

Some 40 per cent of Australia’s exports are from WA and 15 per cent are from the Pilbara region, according to the Chamber of Commerce.

The key to growth is exports, Mr Newnham said.

“Nations that export grow faster than those that don’t,” he said.

“So for Australia to do well we need to maintain a focus on exporting businesses, we need to maintain a focus on remaining competitive, business being supported to be competitive on the international stage.

“Because you don’t get rich selling to yourself.”