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India digging WA miners

RECENT events in India have underlined the important role of the State Government in assisting WA companies to capture new market opport-unities.

In the past year, trade missions organised by the Department of Commerce and Trade have provided a foot in the door for dozens of local businesses to access new and exciting overseas markets – and the results speak for themselves.

In February, for example, Commerce and Trade Minister Hendy Cowan led a high level trade mission to India, with the itinerary including a meeting with head of the Indian Ministry of Mines Dipak Chatterjee.

Six months later, Mr Chatterjee accepted a return invitation to visit WA, cementing the strong links established at the earlier meeting.

In this positive environment, new doors began opening in India for WA companies, and this has culminated in the recent granting of mining permits to two companies with strong WA operations, Rio Tinto and Australian Indian Resources, to mine for gold, diamonds and precious minerals in India.

This is a significant break-through, with the two companies among the first in the world to be granted mining permits in India since the liberalisation of foreign investment.

Importantly, their success is also likely to open up further opportunities for WA firms to supply a range of products and services for this market.

In 1999-2000, the Depart-ment of Commerce and Trade coordinated 26 overseas trade missions to destinations including Asia, Africa, Europe and the UK.

Many of the missions have led to return visits from these countries and a number of new contracts have been finalised.

A good example is a trade mission to Taiwan in June last year, followed up this year by an investment mission from Taiwan to WA. This resulted in new contracts for products ranging from wheat flour to ice-cream and wine.

Other trade missions being organised include South Africa and Mozambique this month to pursue opportunities resulting from the sale of alumina to the Mozel smelter; Italy and Israel in November to explore opportunities in the olive industry; and Hong Kong, Great Britain and the US also in November, to investigate IT opportunities.

As well as our network of 13 overseas trade offices, we have an International Trade Relations Team based in Perth that can provide expert information and advice to any business contemplating new export markets.

8 Richard Muirhead is the CEO of the Department of Commerce and Trade.

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