The governor of South Australia’s sister state of Shandong, China, has welcomed the state’s largest ever trade delegation by assuring them that this was a fortuitous year for Australia-China relations.
“This is the Year of the Ram,” Governor Gou Shuqing told an audience of more than 800 in Jinan on Monday. “And since Australia’s prosperity rides on the back of the ram (sheep), it will be a prosperous year.”
Governor Gou welcomed the 250 South Australian delegates and more that 600 local Chinese business people and government officials in the vastness of the Shandong hotel.
A major theme of the ensuing presentations and meetings was the need for South Australian expertise in green technologies, especially around water treatment and soil improvement for agriculture.
Governor Gou said the potential partnerships could only be tapped “if we can work on major projects together.”
Premier Jay Weatherhill responded by saying that a close relationship between South Australia and Shandong would allow us to support the growth of the “superpower to the north.”
He said that our expertise in technology, education and aged care would be in demand in Shandong, as well as premium products such as food and wine for the growing middle class.
The impending free trade agreement with China was the main topic of conversation and Governor Gou said that the long-standing relationship with South Australia would mean that Shandong would be able to use the state as a doorway into markets across Australia.
“Our relationship with South Australia is a window, a platform, for trade with the rest of Australia,” he said.
The 30 representatives of South Australian local government found that the more than 100 delegates from Shandong prefectures were eager to get help with urban planning on a local level.
Shaun Kennedy, the general manager of the city of Playford, said he was quizzed on everything from wheelchair access to managing an ageing population.
“The local government in Shandong are faced with an ageing population and asked us for our knowledge of how to care for them,” Kennedy said.
Deals and memorandum of understanding were struck, and Minister for State Development, Investment and Trade Martin Hamilton-Smith announced at the dinner showcasing South Australian food that Seppeltsfield winery had signed a yearly contract to supply 1.5 million litres of wine to a Chinese company.
Hamilton-Smith also used the occasion to announce that Shandong province will take up a stall in the Brand South Australia pavilion at the Royal Adelaide Show to showcase the province to South Australians and provide an opportunity for Chinese businesses to visit.
“We are scheduling regular meetings from now on, with the China trip to be an annual affair in May and the reciprocal visit from China to be in September during the show,” he said.
“Having our Shandong friends at the Royal Adelaide Show this year will celebrate the South Australia and Shandong relationship in the lead up to its thirtieth year.”
Hamilton-Smith also revealed that negotiations are underway for a regular and direct charter flight between Qingdao and Adelaide.
Vice Governor of Shandong Xia Geng said that although the two regions had much in common, it was in their differences that there was the most room to develop.
“We have quite different societies, economies and cultures,” he said. “This gives lots of space to develop and learn from each other.”
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