THE governor of South Australia’s sister state of Shandong, China welcomed the state’s largest ever trade delegation by assuring them that this was a fortuitous year for Australia-China relations.
“This is the Year of the Ram,” Governor Guo Shuqing told an audience of more than 800 in Jinan on Monday. “And since Australia’s prosperity rides on the back of the ram (sheep), it will be a prosperous year.”
Governor Guo welcomed the 250 South Australian delegates and more that 600 local Chinese business people and government officials in the vastness of the Shandong hotel.
A major theme of the ensuing presentations and meetings was the need for South Australian expertise in green technologies, especially around water treatment and soil improvement for agriculture.
Vice Governor of Shandong Xia Geng.
Governor Guo said the potential partnerships could only be tapped “if we can work on major projects together.”
Premier Jay Weatherhill responded by saying that a close relationship between South Australia and Shandong would allow us to support the growth of the “superpower to the north.”
He said that our expertise in technology, education and aged care would be in demand in Shandong, as well as premium products such as food and wine for the growing middle class.
The impending free trade agreement with China was the main topic of conversation and Governor Guo said that the long-standing relationship with South Australia would mean that Shandong would be able to use the state as a doorway into markets across Australia.
“Our relationship with South Australia is a window, a platform, for trade with the rest of Australia,” he said.
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill addressing media.
The 30 representatives of South Australian local government found that the more than 100 delegates from Shandong prefectures were eager to get help with urban planning on a local level.
Shaun Kennedy, the General Manager of Playford, said he was quizzed on everything from wheelchair access to managing an ageing population.
“The local government in Shandong are faced with an ageing population and asked us for our knowledge of how to care for them,” Kennedy said.
Deals and memorandum of understanding were struck, and Minister for State Development, Investment and Trade Martin Hamilton Smith announced at the dinner showcasing South Australian food that Seppeltsfield winery had signed a yearly contract to supply 1.5 million litres of wine to a Chinese company.
Minister Hamilton Smith also used the occasion to announce that Shandong province will take up a stall in the Brand South Australia pavilion at the Royal Adelaide Show to showcase the province to South Australians and provide a time for Chinese businesses to visit.
He said that there are negotiations underway to organise a direct charter flight between Qingdao and Adelaide, in an effort to add a regular direct flight.
“We have quite different societies, economies and cultures. This gives lots of space to develop and learn from each other.”
“We are scheduling regular meetings from now on, with the China trip to be an annual affair in May and the reciprocal visit from China to be in September during the show,” he said.
“Having our Shandong friends at the Royal Adelaide Show this year will celebrate the South Australia and Shandong relationship in the lead up to its thirtieth year,” Hamilton Smith said.
Vice Governor of Shandong Xia Geng said that although the two regions had much in common, it was in their differences that there was the most room to develop.
“We have quite different societies, economies and cultures,” he said. “This gives lots of space to develop and learn from each other.”
The differences in the cultures have been a foundation of the relationship, with cultural ties and understanding developed between the two regions through the arts.
Douglas Gautier, the CEO of the Adelaide Festival Centre, led a 10-person delegation of the heads of South Australia’s cultural institutions to cement the relationship.
Following from the OzAsia Festival featuring Shandong artists last year, Gautier has arranged for South Australian arts, films and music to travel to Shandong this year.
Gautier also said that beyond cultural exchanges there was a clear business case for South Australians to become involved in the explosion of cultural centres in China.
Allan Smith, the head of the State Library, said he signed a memorandum of understanding with the Shandong Library to help them implement the South Australian One Library model.
“It is at least a five year project, but we have taken the first steps,” Smith said.
Sean Keenihan, the Premier’s advisor on China and the Vice President of the Australia China Business Council, said the mission and its results has been years in the making but a logical step for both parties.
“We got together two years ago and realised we had what each other needed to reach our goals,” he said. “It was logical to work together.”
The mission now moves on to the coastal city of Qingdao to discuss investment and trade opportunities.