The Hon Colin Barnett, Premier of Western Australia, said today that the state's ongoing economic and social relationships with key Asian countries would continue to strengthen, and Western Australia would "bounce back just as quickly as it has done every other time" from current issues such as iron ore pricing and supply.
Mr Barnett, in officially opening the In the Zone forum at The University of Western Australia, described Western Australia as a very fortunate place. "We have an energetic and educated population, a stable political environment and vast natural resources. We don't have a large domestic population, and we are fortunate our position is close to Asia," he said.
Mr Barnett said the post-war reconstruction of Japan in the 1960s and 1970s that saw Australia, and particularly Western Australia, grow more connected to Asia had resulted in Japan being our most trusted and reliable partner in trade and investment for 50 years.
However, he described the development of China as "without doubt, the economic, political and social phenomenon of this century".
"We have an ‘international policy' built around economic and social interaction. We have developed over the past 10 years or so relationships with China and it is by far our most dominant trading partner. 70 per cent of exports to China come from WA," Mr Barnett said, adding that diversification into non-traditional collaborative areas such as biodiversity and botanical research was exciting. "China is the game changer."
"More recently, attention has also shifted to India, the next big opportunity - it is surprising how little trade we have there. There is a huge amount of work to be done." Mr Barnett described opportunities such as the future sale of LNG to India as having "huge promise for us".
Mr Barnett said the government's attention was increasingly focused on south-east Asia, where relationships with countries such as Singapore were dynamic and wide-ranging, encompassing sectors such as sport and fashion.
He said the relationship with Indonesia was tumultuous from time to time, and Indonesia was "still a developing nation dealing with incredible complexity".
Leaders from government, business and academia have convened today at this year's In the Zone Leadership Forum at University Club of Western Australia.
In the Zone is The University of Western Australia's premier forum on geopolitics and international trade. A group of outstanding speakers and thinkers will discuss this year's theme Capital Ideas for the Twenty-first Century.
In the Zone is presented by The University of Western Australia together with Principal Partners Rio Tinto, the Perth USAsia Centre and the State Government of Western Australia.
1. Dignitaries arrive at the In the Zone Leadership Forum at the University of Western Australia.
2. Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett, speaking at the In the Zone Leadership Forum at UWA says Western Australia's relationships in the zone will continue to flourish.
In the Zone is The University of Western Australia's premier forum on geopolitics and international trade. Our ambitious conference series aims to engage stakeholders in Australia and in key Asian cities directly, to encourage networking and collaboration between decision makers across the zone and to share our vision of Perth and Western Australia's place in this dynamic region.
This year, In the Zone has convened two high-profile events, our annual Forum on 1 May 2015, and our first venture into Asia in Singapore on 13 April. Venture Asia extended the In the Zone narrative beyond Perth.
THE ZONE / ~ noun the time zone shared by Perth, 60 per cent of the world's population, and the nations that promise the greatest economic growth of the twenty-first century.
Sonia Nolan (Media Manager, In the Zone ‘15) (+61 4) 01 034 103