"We'll need Asia literate policies and Asia-capable people" ... Bob Carr.

Bob Carr ... stepped in when Julia Gillard fell ill. Photo: Andrew Meares

Australia's economic future lies beyond its mines and beyond China, Foreign Minister Bob Carr has told a gathering of Asian and United States business leaders in New York.

As slowing Chinese growth takes Australia's mining boom off the boil, Senator Carr has presented a complex and diverse road ahead that may require tax and regulatory reform.

"The point I'm making is not to replace one simple story - fragile prosperity based on a boom and at short-term risk from slowing Chinese growth - with a different simple story - good times that will last forever with no risks at all," Senator Carr told a New York audience on Monday.

"What I want is to replace a simple story with a more serious and detailed account of what's going on in Australia."

Senator Carr delivered the speech on behalf of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who cancelled her appearance less than an hour before it was scheduled to begin, citing illness.

Championing Australia's strong economy, Senator Carr said innovation, increased productivity and competitiveness would be key factors to ensure a prosperous future.

And to ensure such a scenario the foreign minister foresees a "really sophisticated agenda, from innovation to infrastructure, tax reform and regulatory reform".

Australia was mindful of the rise of regional players including Indonesia and India.

"It's not just new competition, it's new consumers," he said. Asia's middle-class was growing by more than 100 million each year and presented a valuable opportunity for Australia.

"Not just new consumers, it's consumers who want to buy new things," Senator Carr said.

"Once you've sold them concrete and steel, iron and gas, they buy wine and movies and music, retirement financial products and bespoke tourism experiences and food which is the product of clean and sustainable agriculture.

"In the century ahead, it's precisely economies like ours - advanced, knowledge-oriented, service-rich economies - which are best placed to prosper.

"But only if we keep lifting productivity, if we keep driving innovation, keep generating new ideas."

In other sectors, Australia must maintain strength as a provider of education services, currently the nation's third biggest export, Senator Carr said.

He cited liquefied natural gas projects in northern Australia as an example of how a diversified resources sector was capable of offsetting declining income from China.

"Our century will be defined by the rise of many countries and many cultures, not just one," he said.

"The most challenging risk is if we can't make and sell the things that Chinese and Indian and Indonesian and Thai consumers are buying in 2033.

"And the real task of national preparedness is this."

More than 200 members of the Asia Society and the Economic Club of New York attended Monday's lunch at New York's prestigious Pierre hotel.

Senator Carr and Ms Gillard are in New York on a diplomatic visit where the prime minister will attend United Nations Leaders Week.

AAP