With the Australian economy reeling from the commodity price slump, trade figures are keen to talk up the potential for the service sector exporting to China.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner – both for exports and imports – with trade valued at around A$160bn in 2014. The bulk of this trade consists of goods, however the country also exported some A$7bn of services to China in 2013 and officials say that there is serious potential for this to grow.

In Brisbane, the Australia China Business Council (ACBC) tells GTR that Queensland in particular will be hoping to benefit from the growing imports of services in China, particularly in the fields of education, tourism and professional services. With an increased number of Chinese students studying in Queensland’s universities and hordes of Chinese tourists descending on the Sunshine State every year, the interest is at an all-time high.

Architecture firm Populous has been one of the beneficiaries of China’s infrastructure boom and has also taken advantage of China’s increased global profile, with the country hosting a series of important sporting events.

“Export sales to China vary each year depending on the size of our projects. Over the course of the last 15 years our revenue from China has been a significant proportion of our export income. We have designed several successful high-profile major sports venues in China including the Nanjing Sports Park for the 2005 China National Games; Datong Sports Park, and Zhuhai Tennis Centre which will be completed mid 2015 in time to host its first WTA event in November,” Michele Fleming, associate principal at Populous’ Asian headquarters in Brisbane, tells GTR.

However, the same issues which make China a tricky place to business for goods exporters also present challenges for the service sector.

“Payments can be delayed for various reasons beyond our control so it is important to plan for that and to be patient and persistent and spend real face time with clients so they know and trust you. We have always been paid for our work in China,” Fleming explains. “There can also be issues with varying  withholding taxes from region to region and there can also be payment delays because of the inexperience of some Chinese clients of the payment process required for overseas services.”

A figure from Trade & Investment Queensland privately admits that the service sector will never be able to replace the extractive industries in terms of business with China. However, they are optimistic that it will expand rapidly over the coming years.

Earmarked for progression is the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector, particularly out of Brisbane, with a number of world-class research facilities in the third-level education institutions of the city.

Furthermore, despite the cleantech sector in Australia taking a hit at home due to government spending cuts, it has been making big inroads into the Chinese market and taking advantage of Beijing’s desire to fix certain elements of its own economy.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) recently entered into an agreement with a Chinese organisation – the Beijing MCC Equipment Research & Design Corporation – to trial a green technology which converts waste iron ore to cement. Given that 60% of the world’s iron ore waste is in China, the solution could have a radical impact on China’s efforts to clean up its act, environmentally.