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Western Australian Premier flies to China to enhance ties

(Xinhua)

16:00, September 14, 2011

SYDNEY, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- The Premier of Western Australia ( WA) Colin Barnett will fly to Beijing to strengthen economic and investment ties with China and hold talks with Chinese government officials about Oakajee port and rail project, the WA government said on Wednesday.

The Oakajee development, one of Australia's biggest planned infrastructure projects, is already well behind schedule and over budget.

According to a feasibility study released by Murchison in July, the total cost of the project is now estimated to be around 5.94 billion AU dollars (6.08 billion U.S. dollars), almost double its original estimate of 3 billion AU dollars (3.07 billion U.S. dollars) in March 2009.

"China and Western Australia have very strong mutual interests in increasing our trade and investment links," Barnett said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Exports from Western Australia represent 73 percent of Australia's exports to China and 80 percent of China's investment in Australia is in Western Australia."

In the next two days, the premier will meet with senior officials of China's key economic planning body the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and discuss the Oakajee project with them.

The Premier said he would meet with other key government and industry leaders to promote new investment in Western Australia.

Barnett will leave Perth for the short working visit on Thursday and return on Saturday.

Barnett said he would seek to bring a Chinese investor into the project after Murchison Metals, one of the project's joint venture partners, admitted it can't fund its share.

"What it's about is trying to find a way of formally bringing China into the development of the infrastructure itself alongside Mitsubishi, as the Japanese interest," Barnett told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio.

"I need to crack open the Oakajee arrangement and put it back together in a form that will work."

Japanese company Mitsubishi is the other joint venture partner while both the WA and federal governments have contributed 339 million AU dollars (346.95 million U.S. dollars) each to build the bulk of the Oakajee port.

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