Tasmania’s new relationship with China is about mutual benefits, not about “selling off the farm”, Premier Will Hodgman says.
Chinese president Xi Jinping and his wife, Madame Peng Liyuan, completed a round of engagements during a day-long visit to Hobart on Tuesday.
The trip has been touted as a landmark opportunity for bolstering the state’s economy, and comes immediately after China and Australia agreed to a new free trade agreement that included tariff cuts for Australian dairy and agricultural imports.
The tourism industry is hoping the visit will boost the state’s profile among China’s burgeoning middle-class, and dairy, agricultural and fish exporters are keen to take up any opportunities.
Mr Hodgman told 936 ABC Hobart that it was a pivotal time for Tasmania.
“People shouldn’t be alarmed we are going to flog off the family farm,” he said.
“This about striking up good deals, partnership investment opportunities with Chinese corporations.”
Mr Hodgman said it was wrong to look at the opportunities as boiling down to selling our milk, or selling our farms.
“We certainly need to explore all sensible options… it would be wonderful to have Chinese investments here that could even process Tasmanian resources here in our state.
“This the sort of value-adding opportunity we are keen to explore. I hope people recognise the extraordinary opportunities.”
He said the deals were important steps in developing commercial and cultural ties.
“I don’t think any Tasmanian or Australian government is seriously considering the notion of selling off our state or our country to the Chinese.
“It is about better utilising what is an important economic partner.”
Mr Hodgman said he would welcome the China Development Bank sending representatives to Tasmania to talk seriously, sensitively and sensibly about developments.
Five more ‘significant’ MOUs signed
Five more memorandum of understandings (MOU) involving state ministers were signed when the president visited Hobart, as well as the Antarctic Gateway agreement.
These are in addition to the four which the Premier and Mr Xi Jinping signed in Canberra on Monday night.
Minister for State Growth Matthew Groom also signed an MOU on trade promotion between the Department of State Growth and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Australia.
Four further agreements between Entura, Premium Australia Foods, Reid Fruits and the University of Tasmania and Chinese counterparts were also signed in Hobart.
They aim to set up cooperation, investment and job opportunities for Tasmania and China.
The University of Tasmania (UTAS) and Yunnan University have already created a Tasmanian Asia institute.
Yunnan Normal University and Australian Education Management Group will provide over an initial period of five years $1.6 million to support the Sino-Australia Cultural Research Centre.
UTAS has also contributed about $500,000 in PhD scholarships for the new centre.
Deal helps cherry farmer double production
Reid Fruits and Jinsheng Group have signed a deal to look at the expansion of cherry production.
The project will pioneer temperate tree fruit production in one of Tasmania’s new irrigation schemes.
Cherry producer Tim Reid said the multi-million-dollar deal with a Chinese company would almost double his cherry production.
Mr Reid grows and packs about 1,000 tonnes of cherries every year at his business in the Derwent Valley.
He said the deal with the Jinsheng Group would allow him to almost double his production and workforce of about 80 full-time jobs.
Mr Reid said the plan was to grow more cherries at his existing orchard and use water from the southern midlands irrigation scheme to develop new orchards.
Australia to work closer with China in Antarctica
The Federal Government signed an agreement with China’s Antarctic body to strengthen collaboration between the two countries in the region.
The signing of the MOU, witnessed by Mr Xi, also bolsters Hobart’s bid as the gateway port to Antarctica for the Chinese icebreaker.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt described it as a breakthrough.
“This Antarctic cooperation MOU is a coup for Tasmania, it’s a coup for Hobart, this is about a partnership with the world’s most populous country, this is about Hobart being a gateway to Antarctica and the world knowing it,” he said.
During his visit Mr Xi spoke at a luncheon at Government House about his desire to increase China’s connection with Hobart, the base of Australia’s Antarctic program.
“Cooperation in the Antarctic is a bright spot in China’s cooperation with the state of Tasmania… I will visit China’s Xue Long or Snow Dragon research vessel in the port of Hobart,” he said.
“And I hope our two sides can strengthen cooperation at sea and in the polar areas.”
Source: ABC news (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-18/hodgman-says-china-deals-are-not-selling-off-the-farm/5901084)