A TRADE delegate representing China in Warrnambool will be bankrolled as part of a joint state-local government plan to strengthen economic ties.
Premier Denis Napthine made the announcement yesterday, revealing the state government will contribute the majority of funding to the $330,000 plan.
The two-year initiative will be focused on direct links between south-west businesses and potential customers based in Warrnambool’s sister city Changchun.
State and local governments will invite a Chinese development expert to live and work in Warrnambool for up to 12 months as a way of tapping into the lucrative Changchun market.
Funds will also be spent on research into trade links.
Dr Napthine, who is also South West Coast MP, said it was important to make direct contact with Chinese civic and business leaders in order to develop economic ties.
“The trade opportunities for the south-west are enormous,” the Premier said.
“It is important we recognise that Chinese leaders have a different way of doing business to the more impersonal European way that we’re used to. They prefer to have a personal connection with the people they’re doing business with and that’s why it’s so important that we establish these connections.”
The state government will provide $225,000 towards the initiative with $75,000 coming from Warrnambool City Council and $30,000 from south-west businesses.
Warrnambool City Council chief executive Bruce Anson said visiting Changchun dignitaries had been impressed with what south-west Victoria has to offer on previous visits.
He said the trade delegate plan would help strengthen ties that had been forged over the past few years.
“The population of Changchun is 7.5 million people — that’s an extraordinary number of potential customers for south-west business,” Mr Anson said.
“There’s no point working on a national level, it’s too vast. By building these city-to-city connections, we are establishing economic ties that will be of noticeable benefit to both communities.”
Yesterday’s announcement was made at the Ryan’s Transport Warrnambool depot, with business leaders and Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh in attendance.
Under the plan, the transport company is likely to be assisted in expanding its export business, acting as the link between shifting south-west produce out of Australia, directly to Changchun retailers.
SED Advisory partner Robert Lane said many in south-west business were keen to strengthen the links between Warrnambool and the northern Chinese city.
“We’re talking about trade on a massive scale,” Mr Lane said. “Our sister city is massive, larger than the population of Queensland, and the relationship has really become quite strong over the past few years.”