02/02/2017 - 11:07

Diversify exports and customers: Court

02/02/2017 - 11:07

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Former premier Richard Court has urged producers in Western Australia to become more active to take advantage of the significant export opportunities emerging in Asian markets.

Australia's new ambassador to Japan, Richard Court. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Former premier Richard Court has urged producers in Western Australia to become more active to take advantage of the significant export opportunities emerging in Asian markets.

Mr Court, who flies to Tokyo today to take up his new post as Australia's ambassador to Japan, said trade agreements with both Japan and China were providing exciting new possibilities for local producers.

"Some of the smaller agricultural and horticultural producers selling quality products are now having these new opportunities opened up for them," Mr Court told Business News.

"We hear so much about the big game, the resources sector, which is very much an underlying strength of our national economy. But it is absolutely critical we have to diversify - we have to diversify with products and with countries. We don't want to have all our eggs in the one basket."

Mr Court was upbeat about the potential for local industry, noting it tended to undersell itself in Asia.

"We always talk about buying defence product from overseas when we've also got the opportunity to sell some pretty sophisticated products ourselves," Mr Court said. "You have the classic example of Austal at Henderson being a major producer now for the US Navy.

"The question whether there is an opportunity for that type of product to be sold into a Japanese market that will no doubt be growing its defence capabilities."

Mr Court said that, as ambassador, he would be promoting the national interest at all times. But he was also keen to see the resumption of direct flights between Perth and Tokyo, which he described as the holy grail of the tourism industry.

"Western Australia is very well placed to build its tourism sector because now that the resources construction boom is finished, we have some terrific new hotel product coming on to the market," he said.

"That is going to become quite an exciting new growth area."

Mr Court said it was in Australia's interests to promote free trade in Asia, and good relations existed with countries such as China, South Korea and Japan.

"You don't have to support one and not the other," he said. "We have very good open relationships with all of those countries."

*Read the full interview with Richard Court in the February 13 edition of Business News.

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