Australian state moves to bolster business ties with China

By The Lead South Australia / 10 October 2016

Local government-to-government relations is behind the recent successes South Australia has had in China.

Introducing mayors and councillors to their counterparts in South Australia’s sister state of Shandong has helped boost high-end exports of the state’s clean, green fresh produce, sustainable technology and premium wine.

The state is also positioning itself to attract Chinese investment in industries such as commercial development, health and agriculture.

The strategy recognises that mayors of Chinese cities, especially provincial capitals such as Jinan, hold much more influence than in Australia so Chinese businesses feel more comfortable entering into trade agreements when the local mayor is engaged.

An extension of this strategy is the launch of the SASD Connect website in English and Mandarin by the Local Government Association of South Australia and the Australia China Business Council.

The website promotes South Australian and Chinese companies and aims to reduce the language, cultural and logistical barriers to doing business.

LGA Senior Policy Advisor of Economic Development Skana Gallery said the website simplified the process and allowed investors to connect directly with other businesses.

“South Australia has a lot to offer. We have what Shandong wants and a lot of these things they can’t buy locally,” she said.

“When people in Shandong or China are looking for investment opportunities or indeed products to buy, they know they can go to the website and find opportunities that are legitimate.

“If people are looking for opportunities they can connect with businesses on there directly but if they want to propose an opportunity on the site they can apply and go through a prequalification process.”

Sean Keenihan, the South Australia President of the Australia China Business Council, said the state had what Shandong needed to improve its trade and investment sectors.

“Through the SASD Connect website we are able to promote our brand and present pre-qualified trade and investment opportunities to the Shandong market in a user friendly, articulate, bilingual, market focussed and consumer driven way,” he said.

A number of South Australian companies have already had trade success through the relationship including ELWA Energy Savers that sells its digitally controlled instantaneous water heaters in Shandong.

Now companies like Ambersun Alpacas are using SASD Connect to export live alpacas to China to supply the local luxury clothing industry.

The website launch came shortly after South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill led a 160-strong delegation of government leaders and representatives of more than 100 local companies to Shandong in April.

The business mission coincided with the 30th anniversary of South Australia’s sister state relationship with Shandong.

The South Australian Government has also recently revised its engagement strategy with China to include more social, cultural and economic development with an added focus on building opportunities for engagement and supporting China-ready businesses.

The Bank of China opened its first branch in the South Australian capital of Adelaide this year.

Adelaide Lord Mayor Martin Haese said the new branch reflected the strong increases in investment both in Adelaide from China, and of Adelaide-based companies in China.

“We are also seeing an increase in the Chinese Business Migrant community in Adelaide, which is truly flourishing, bringing investment and jobs,” he said.

“The opening of this branch will service our significant local Chinese community and many migrants choosing Adelaide as their new home.”

Economically, Shandong is China’s third largest province with a population of approaching 100 million and an annual GDP approaching USD $1trillion.

China is Australia’s and also South Australia’s largest and most significant two-way trading partner, accounting for almost 20 per cent of the state’s total exports.

Last year, South Australia and Shandong signed a Friendly Co-operation Action Plan 2015-2018 - committing both sides to significantly increased trade, investment and cultural ties.

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