China showcase comes to town

WHEN the Royal Show kicks off on Friday, it won’t just be fun and games on the program. A big contingent of suited Chinese businessmen will be displaying their wares, looking for opportunities and investments in WA.

The Department of Industry and Technology together with the Royal Agricultural Society is playing host to the group of 35 companies from mainland China who will be exhibiting their goods at the Show.

China is the first nation to be asked to attend the show in what is hoped will be an annual guest nation showcase.

The idea of the guest nation program is to show what these companies make, as well as give WA companies the opportunity to meet with them and pursue investment opportunities.

China has been described as the flavour of the month both culturally and economically in the wake of its entry into the World Trade Organisation in December last year. Since then, on August 8, the North West shelf joint venture partners were awarded a $25 billion gas deal with China.

Expectations are high within WA Government circles that China’s prominent position as WA’s fourth largest trading partner will continue. In 2000-01, total trade between WA and China had reached $3.1 million. Just $381 million worth of this trade were imports into Australia, such as petroleum oils, baby carriages, toys games and sporting goods, furniture and clothing.

The ties are now also extending into the social and cultural realms.

Last month, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer launched a photographic book funded by his Department and the Australia-China Council, to coincide with the commemoration of 30 years of diplomatic relations with China.

Meanwhile, Australian art galleries are showing the Chinese Two Emperors exhibition.

In turn, Australia is the first nation to be invited to feature its film, literature, performing and visual arts at the Fourth Shanghai International Arts Festival in November this year. Around 200 Australian artists are expected to be on display in the week-long presentation entitled "Celebrate Australia 2002.

The cultural ties are expected to extend further through tourism. Austrade this week has given the floor, through a series of seminars, to the Shanghai China Travel Service deputy general manager Yu Wei Hua, one of China’s largest tour operators. Austrade’s senior trade commissioner in Shanghai Peter Osborne also spoke about the opportunities for Australian companies to export goods and services to the rapidly growing internal Chinese tourism market.

Mr Osborne said 145 million Chinese tourists were expected to travel within China by 2020.

And unlike the Japanese they are prepared to spend.

On top of this, Chinese outbound tourism to Australia is expected to grow 24 per cent every year over the next decade.

"This growth is already providing an increasingly diverse range of opportunities for Australian suppliers – from hotel design to food services, hospitality training to amusement park ticketing systems," he said.

"There are openings to tailor products and services to meet the needs to the Chinese traveller both in Australia and in China. The Chinese have a great propensity to spend – in fact the average Chinese traveller spends almost three times that of a Japanese traveller in Australia."

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