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Western Australia a blueprint for China engagement

By Christian Edwards (Xinhua)

18:38, February 18, 2013

PERTH, Feb. 18. (Xinhua) -- Chinese companies will be the champions of a remodeled global business environment and the Chinese economy will assume the lion's share of global growth in 2013, according to Australia's peak industry body fostering bilateral trade and investment.

In the shadow of Sydney's largest ever Chinese New Year celebrations, 3,500 km directly west, Duncan Calder, president of the Australia China Business Council (ACBCWA), told a gathering of business and community leaders in Perth last week that the world was now looking to China.

Speaking at the annual ACBC Chinese New Year banquet, Calder said, "With the American economy still in a fragile recovery and the EU mired in its debt crisis, the world looks to China as a growth locomotive.

"China is expected to take on a greater share of keeping the world economy growing in 2013."

The annual Chinese New Year banquet in Perth is the largest of its kind anywhere in Australia and reflects the growing importance Western Australia (WA) now plays in a bilateral relationship worth well over 120 billion Australian dollars annually.

WA have a population of scarcely 2 million, but, thanks to its ongoing partnership with China, it is now the world's leading state in minerals production and distribution.

Massive shares of world production include 21 percent of iron ore, 14 percent of alumina, 13 percent of nickel, 7 percent of liquefied natural gas and 6 percent of gold.

It's a portfolio that is growing almost daily, with new projects in lithium, vanadium, rare earths and uranium following the daily shipments of iron ore from the rich Pilbara region. WA boasts well over 500 commercial mining and petroleum projects, with a combined production value of 107 billion Australian dollars (110.16 billion U.S. dollars) in 2011.

The Pilbara region alone accounts for 31 percent of Australia's merchandise exports. Port Hedland exports more tons of bulk cargo than any other port in the world.

Tellingly, 80 percent of investment by China's state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Australia is in Western Australia.

The maturing of the China relationship in WA is reflected by China's SOEs becoming both a foundation customer and foundation investor in major greenfield projects.

Indicative of this cooperation are the new magnetite projects which are currently coming on stream and bringing a whole new industry to Australia. These are led by CITIC Pacific Mining with its Sino iron project in the Pilbara and Ansteel (Gindalbie) through the Karara Project in the Mid-West. "These projects are national assets of both China and Australia," Calder told Xinhua.

Calder said Western Australia is the lynchpin of the bilateral relationship and is the origin of some 73 percent of all Australian goods exported to China.

"When Premier (Colin) Barnett first visited China in 1994 the exports of Pilbara iron ore to China were 17 million tons a year. Today, the comparable figure is over 300 million tons," he said.

Just as impressive is the state's position in international trade.

Merchandise exports from Western Australia during 2011-2012 were 121 billion Australian dollars, or 46 percent of Australia's total. By the end of this decade, exports from Western Australia will be well over 50 percent of Australia's total and possibly approaching 60 percent.

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