바람에 나부끼고 있는 중국과 호주 국기 (사진: 페이스북)

지난 25년 동안 호주 경제는 불황을 겪지 않고 성장해왔고 이 기간 동안 중국과의 교역 규모는 연간 1,500억 호주달러(121조 원)에서 7,500억 호주달러로 증가했다.

세계 2위 경제 대국인 중국은 이제 호주의 최대 교역국이자 호주의 최대 수출 상품인 철광석의 주요 수입국이다. 중국은 또 호주의 두 번째로 큰 석탄 수입국이다.

공식 통계에 따르면 호주가 중국에 수출하는 철광석과 석탄은 연간 1,200억 호주달러 규모로 호주 전체 해외 수출액의 약 30%에 해당한다.  호주의 대중국 수출은 2012~13년 이후 56% 급증했다.

21세기 양국의 번영과 성장은 호주 원자재의 도움을 크게 받아 중국이 이룬 경제 기적과 밀접한 관계가 있다. 2017~18년에는 호주와 중국 간 교역 규모(1,946억 호주달러)가 미국과 일본과의 교역 규모를 합친 금액(1,478억 호주달러)보다 많았다.

따라서 중국 경제가 휘청거리면 호주 경제도 흔들릴 수 있다는 관측이 제기되고 있다.

중국의 경기둔화가 악재이긴 하지만, 부정적 영향을 완화시킬 수 있는 요인들도 있다.

중국의 철광석 수요가 줄어들 수 있으나, 세계 철광석 가격은 급등세를 보이고 있다. 분석가들은 2018년 철광석 가격 전망을 암울하게 예상했으나, 하반기부터 가격이 반등하며 지금까지 상승세가 이어지고 있다.

호주산 석탕의 수요 감소 징후도 없다. 중국의 전반적인 수요가 크게 감소하지 않고 있는 가운데 석탄은 올해 철광석을 누르고 호주의 최대 수출 상품이 될 전망이다.

철광석과 석탄 수출이 호주 경제 성장의 견인차 역할을 해 왔지만 작년에는 호주 내 대형 프로젝트들이 추진되면서 액화천연가스(LNG, 이하 LNG) 역시 성장에 크게 기여했다.

중국은 2019년에 LNG 수입을 4배 더 늘릴 예정이다. 수출이 500억 호주달러에 달하면서 호주는 카타르를 제치고 세계 최대 LNG 수출국이 될 것으로 예상된다.

미중 무역 전쟁은 농산물과 식품 등 일부 분야에서 호주에 도움을 줬다. 중국의 애주가들은 와인 맛을 알게 됐다. 미국 상품들이 무역전쟁에 휘말리면서, 호주 산업에 새로운 기회가 생기고 있다.

중국과의 자유무역협정에 따른 5차 관세 인하 조치가 있었고, 이로 인해 와인뿐 아니라 해산물과 기타 농산물에 대한 수입 관세가 인하됐다.

내수에서도 호주달러 약세 덕에 늘어난 관광객들은 작년에만 전체 관광 수입의 25가 넘는 11억 3,000만 호주달러를 썼다. 호주 대학에 입학하는 학생 수도 늘어나는 추세다.

따라서 중국 경기 둔화가 호주 경기 둔화에 미치는 영향에 대한 비관적인 시각이 과장됐다는 평가도 나온다. 중국 경제가 재채기를 해도 호주 경제가 반드시 감기에 걸리는 건 아니라는 얘기다.

다만 일부 대내 불안 요인에 대한 우려는 남아 있다. 부동산 시장의 급속한 냉각과 대형 은행들의 대출 축소가 소비 심리에 부정적인 영향을 미칠 수 있다. 현재 연간 2.8% 수준인 호주의 GDP 성장률이 정체된다면 대외 요인 보다는 대내 요인 탓일 가능성이 높다.

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