Shifts in geostrategic influence would continue and provide Western Australia with increasing opportunities to partner with countries in the Asian zone, according to Senator Chris Evans, Federal Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.
Senator Evans, speaking today at the inaugural In The Zone conference at The University of Western Australia, said building a strong regional community throughout Asia was a priority for the Federal Government as the region's growth continued.
He said Western Australia was uniquely placed to capitalise on changes in the region, with opportunities in tourism and hospitality, food and wine, education and technology, as well as the ongoing major resources trade.
Senator Evans said long-standing trade and investment ties between Australia and Japan, which initially commenced in Western Australia's resources industry decades ago, would hold it in good stead for the future.
"The Australia-Japan relationship remains one of tremendous significance and one that has enormous potential," he said.
Senator Evans described the two-way benefits accruing from the Australia-China relationship as moving from trade to investment success, mirroring the pattern set by Japan.
"Chinese investment strengthens the economy and supports jobs. Since November 2007 the Australian Government has approved more than 100 investment proposals worth $38 billion, and 96 of those were approved unconditionally."
Approvals were subject to screening and national interest considerations, and the Federal Government was working to streamline regulatory processes.
China's Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Zhang Junsai, told In The Zone delegates that China would continue to approach its relationship with Australia from a strategic and long-term perspective.
He said that despite differences in language, culture, history, levels of development and even skin colour, China and Australia were forging closer ties.
"The reason for this is that people in this zone have the same aspirations - peace, development and cooperation," Mr Junsai said.
He said Western Australia contributed to 30 per cent of total trade between Western Australia and China, and the Chinese community living in Western Australia now numbered more than 100,000 people.
Mr Junsai said Western Australia was not only a major player in the region in terms of its resources base. As a supplier of services in fields such as education, medicine and technology, Western Australia was an increasingly important contributor.
The Japanese Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Taka-aki Kojima, described the Australia-Japan relationship as "comprehensive" and one that reflected strong economic ties, people-to-people relationships and growing collaboration in areas such as security.
"We share an interest in the peace and prosperity of the region," he said.
IN THE ZONE is a major public policy conference initiated by The University of Western Australia positioning Western Australia as a thought leader within the time zone it shares with 60 per cent of the world's population and the nations which promise the greatest economic growth for the 21st century.
2009 marks the inaugural IN THE ZONE Conference. This will become a biennial event and a strategic meeting point for the Australian and wider regional community to engage in dialogue about the zone we inhabit and to deepen the policy, trade and investment relationships.
Information about In the Zone, including the conference program: http://www.zone.uwa.edu.au
NB: MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES MUST REGISTER TO COVER THE CONFERENCE. GO TO: http://www.zone.uwa.edu.au/news/media_registration