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Australian NSW Premier voices new family ties with China

(Xinhua)

09:20, September 13, 2011

SYDNEY, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- In a clear expression of closer ties and a flourishing business relationship, New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell has announced that Beijing and Sydney have officially become sister cities.

The agreement was signed during the Premier of the Australian state's recent mission to China, where the newly elected NSW government led the Australia's largest ever business delegation across China, with a focus on discovering the potential of second tier cities.

Visiting China - as his government's first official overseas destination - was a pre-election promise O'Farrell made to the prominent NSW Australia China Business Council (ACBC) President Jim Harrowell AM, before the landslide coalition election win in 2010.

"Beijing and Sydney are a natural fit, considering the important cultural, economic and spiritual role each plays in the heart and mind of their respective nations," O'Farrell told Xinhua.

O'Farrell made the announcement during his delivery of the 2011 China Oration at the University of Sydney, one of the Australia's leading China research centers.

In front of a packed audience of Chinese and Australian business leaders, including the new Chinese Deputy Consul General Liu Kan, the entrepreneur David Collett of Roxby Media and the patron of the ACBC Mr. William Chiu, O'Farrell, spoke of the swiftly expanding business ties now complementing NSW's rich Chinese heritage.

"The (NSW) mission resulted in over 50 million U.S. dollars in commercial outcomes.. Among those announcements were a 600,000 Australian dollars (620,880 U.S. dollars) sponsorship of the Sydney festival by China Southern Airlines - for which I was particularly grateful and regard as important for extending the festivals footprint in the region," he said.

NSW is committed to the provision of far more than just services, O'Farrell said, as China implements its 12th Five-Year Program strategy, with the key Australian state uniquely placed to engage with a robust and innovative two-way Chinese relationship.

Over half of Australia's mandarin and Cantonese speakers come from New South Wales, O'Farrell said. Our multi-culturalism is one of our unique strengths. "It's always surprised me this debate of whether Australia is half European or half Asian the answer is evident," he said.

In Beijing, O'Farrell announced that the China Railway 15th Bureau Group would open an office in NSW its first in Australia.

"The China Railway Group is looking to position itself in NSW to take advantage of opportunities to tender for infrastructure developments and in particular the northwest rail link. The move signals a new interest by Chinese investors and Chinese infrastructure companies in the 60 million Australian dollars (62 million U.S. dollars) infrastructure program announced last week in our state's budget," he said.

The entrance of Chinese companies into the Australian infrastructure race will be particularly welcome by both government and private industry.

But it was the announcement of the treasured sister city status with Beijing that was most encouraging to the largely Sydney-based business audience.

The Premier said, "At a governmental level the mayor of Beijing and I have agreed to sign a formal agreement linking our cities. This new relationship will facilitate research cooperation and improve trade flow and export growth -- but more than this -- he said, it must be more than a piece of paper to wave at our respective media - but a framework that leads to better outcomes."

In Guangzhou, O'Farrell attended the Joint Economic Meeting ( JEM) between NSW and Guangdong Province as part of the NSW- Guangdong Sister-State Relationship, established over 30 years ago.

He used his Guangdong meeting to take a swipe at previous NSW governments for letting the valuable relationship slide.

"The governor of Guangdong re-affirmed our sister-state relationship...but it was clear from my first meeting with officials and business leaders that constant changes in leadership and inconsistent decision making, as well as a lack of attention to the Australia-China relationship had damaged the reputation of the state."

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