Australia's ability to compete internationally is under pressure as business leaders struggle to engage with Asia.

A CPA Australia report found Australian respondents placed a relatively low level of importance on access to, and knowledge of, Asian markets and bilingual staff.

Overseas respondents generally rated Australia as relatively poor in its knowledge of Asia and its languages.

The report said the Australian government should fund a review into making the study of Chinese language compulsory in all Australian primary and secondary schools.

"This discord should act as a wake-up call for Australia to realise that it may not be as closely integrated with Asia as it believes," CPA Australia chief executive Alex Malley said.

Mr Malley said Australia's apparent disengagement from Asia and the lack of Asian literacy in the broader population was a distinct competitive disadvantage, as the nation awaited the government's much-anticipated Asian Century white paper.

"Far from being ready to take advantage of the Asian Century, Australia is well behind in beginning this journey," Mr Malley said.

The report showed overseas respondents rated Australia as an economy that was disengaged with Asia and that Australia's performance in accessing Asian markets and Australia's knowledge of Asian markets was relatively poor.

They rated the bilingual skills of the Australian workforce as relatively poor, while Australian businesses typically place a relatively low level of importance on Asian markets in comparison with the domestic market.

However, this was not the case for certain industries such as mining and agriculture.

The report found geographic distance may not be a handicap, but cultural distance was.

"There is a strong risk that without a change in mindset from Australian business, Australia will be a peripheral player in the Asian Century," it said.

The West Australian

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