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Statement by Consul General Dong Zhihua at the Second Annual China-Western Australia Strategic Symposium
2019/10/18

(17 October 2019, Government House, Perth)

Mr. Adam Hadley, President of ACBC WA Branch,

Mr. Sun Xiaoxuan, President of CCCA Perth,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to attend the Second Annual China-Western Australia Strategic Symposium. The launch of the first Symposium by Premier McGowan demonstrates the vision and commitment of the WA state government to deepening economic cooperation with China. I wish to thank ACBC WA and CCCA Perth for carrying on the endeavor and organizing the second one in WA. I warmly welcome delegates from China who will bring to us much needed first hand information and fresh insights from the Chinese perspectives.

Western Australia has long-term and solid foundation of economic cooperation with China, ever since the Channar project started in 1987. Over the past 30 years, we have jointly written a success story of win-win cooperation in which WA provided the critical resources for China's industrialization while China's rapid development contributed to Australia and WA's 28 years of economic growth.

Practical cooperation laid the foundation for the establishment of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2014 during President Xi Jinping's state visit, and was further enhanced by the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) which entered into force in 2015.

By September 2019, there are more than 80 Chinese enterprises with a total of 30 billion Australian Dollars' investment in WA covering a whole range of sectors including mining, energy, agriculture, real estate, etc. However, in recent years, the increase of Chinese investment remains stagnant, accounting for only 3% of China's total investment in Australia.

There might be many reasons behind, one of the most prominent being the Eastern states attracting the bulk of investment. While WA maintains its strength in the resources sector and still accounts for 58% of Australia's total export to China, it gets to explore the potential for cooperation in other areas. The Asian Engagement Strategy has already sketched out a whole-of-government approach in six priority sectors. I would like to share some ideas on WA's strategy to attract more Chinese investment.

First, maintain strategic dialogue. Regular policy dialogue is very important in setting the priorities and giving the directions to our two-way trade and investment. The consultation under the MOU on Promotion of Investment hasn't been going on for a while. It is important that the State government keep regular contacts with NDRC and related government agencies in China. The Premier and treasurer's visit to China this year are very important and helpful. We encourage the Premier, cabinet ministers, senior public servants to visit China more often for policy coordination and addressing pressing issues on the ground. Concrete follow-up actions have to be taken timely to turn ideas into reality.

Secondly, to create a more favorable environment for Chinese enterprises. Under the current circumstances of our bilateral relations, WA should make sure Chinese enterprises are treated equally and the approval of new projects not hindered by unfounded political considerations. Premier McGowen has been very outspoken in highlighting the importance of China to WA economy and jobs and in urging the federal government to protect our bilateral relations. We would encourage the state government to continue to do so. If WA could adopt a more positive position on the Belt and Road Initiative, that will give a huge boost from the policy level on increasing Chinese investment and creating jobs.

A fair and reasonable solution to the protracted battle around the Sino Iron Ore Project, with 3000 local jobs at stake, will send a positive signal and boost the confidence of Chinese investors. We hope the state government would exert influence and facilitate an early and appropriate solution.

Thirdly, building the infrastructure. Many Chinese invested resource projects have been dormant because of lack of infrastructure. If the state government could have a strategic plan on the expansion of infrastructure network that will support the transportation of the mineral products, that will greatly facilitate the exploration of isolated projects. We noticed that Infrastructure WA (IWA) will be established to develop the 20-year State Infrastructure Strategy and provide expert advice on infrastructure needs and priorities. We hope that the views and advice from Chinese enterprises could be taken into account.

Fourthly, nurturing new growth areas, especially tourism and education. WA boasts of world-class tourism and educational resources, with great potential to be released. But in recent years the gap with the Eastern states keep enlarging. Back in China, Perth is still not well known. There are people even in my friends circle who do not know where Perth is and the stereotype in people's mind is its isolation. We have to work hard and do it smartly in promoting WA, which means to find right people and do the right things at the right time through the right channel. The Chinese Consulate would like to work closely with the state government and business community to make a difference.

The Asian Engagement Strategy struck the importance of increasing Asian literacy and capacity. I think both sides need to stretch out to communicate and have a better understanding of how each other's systems works instead of taking things for granted. Both sides should make extra efforts rather than being complacent with the status Quo. The Chinese Consulate is ready to join hands with the state government to create a better environment for business communities from both sides for a better future of common prosperity of our peoples.

I thank you.

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