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Australia-China partnerships to get back on track: Aussie official
  2018/6/7 17:59:57    

As the diplomatic relationship between China and Australia have been deteriorating in recent months, officials of the state of Western Australia are taking matters into their own hands to improve trade and investment ties with China.

During his visit to Beijing on Thursday, Mark McGowan, premier of Western Australia, said that he wants the Chinese government and businesses to know that his state is "open for business" and that he wants to make sure his country's diplomatic relationship with China improves.

"The only evidence I have [suggests] that the national relationship with China is improving and that the language is changing from the Australian end and therefore the partnership will be back on track shortly," McGown told reporters. "That's a good thing and I want to make sure I do my bit to ensure that occurs."

McGown, who is in China for the second time as the premier of Western Australia, said that he has been attending "very high-level meetings" with Chinese officials and State-owned enterprises that have investment in his state to make sure that "on a political level, there is no misunderstanding and that a strong partnership continues."

Diplomatic relations between China and Australia became tense in recent months as the Australian government took an increasingly critical stance against China on various issues from the South China Sea to alleged Chinese political interference in Australia.

Fearing their businesses with China could be jeopardized, several Australian winemakers on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to visit China and resolve diplomatic tensions, Reuters reported.

But Hua Chunying, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Wednesday in Beijing that there is "no relevant information" regarding a visit for the Australian Prime Minister. "In state-to-state relations, mutual visits are arranged based on consensus of the two sides reached through communication and coordination," Hua told a press briefing.

Boosted by a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries, China has become the largest trading partner for Australia. In 2017, China imported $110.4 billion worth of goods and services from Australia, accounting for 29.6 percent of the latter's total exports, according to official data from the Australian government.

But as diplomatic tensions escalated in recent months, media reports suggested that some Australian agricultural exports to China have been facing delays at customs clearances in Chinese ports.

Hua said that she does not know "whether that is the case or speculation on the Australian side." But she insisted that "the customs department of a country has the right to go through sampling and inspection procedures on the products of relevant companies. Law enforcement authorities are carrying out their duties and doing their job to ensure the rights and interests of consumers."

McGowan also said that he has not heard about any issues regarding the admission of Western Australian products into China. "So I am very pleased that if there is an issue, it does not involve Western Australia," he said.

Positioning Western Australia as a strong partner, McGowan sought to calm Chinese investors in his state and invited more Chinese companies to invest.

"If Chinese companies want to invest in important projects in Western Australia like some real estate projects or some tourism or mining infrastructure [projects], then we welcome that. But we also want to make sure that the Chinese investors currently in Western Australia understand the state government of Western Australia is very committed to a strong partnership, and there's no risk or issues as far as the Western Australian government is concerned."

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