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WA premier eyes China visit as relations improve

Western Australia’s premier has confirmed he plans to visit Beijing in late-April to discuss the lucrative trade relationship between the two parties.

March 13, 2023
By Michael Ramsey
13 March 2023

Mark McGowan is set to become the first Australian state premier to travel to China since before the COVID-19 pandemic as tensions thaw between the two nations.

Western Australia’s premier has confirmed he plans to visit Beijing in late-April to discuss the lucrative trade relationship between the two parties.

He also expects to visit Guangzhou to address the resumption of direct flights between Perth and the massive port city.

“It obviously needs approval from the Chinese authorities but that’s the plan,” Mr McGowan told reporters.

“Reinstating direct flights and making sure that the relationships, particularly in relation to our major export industries, remain strong (is the priority).”

Foreign Minister Penny Wong travelled to China in December last year, the first visit by a federal government minister since 2019, and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed interest in visiting the global superpower.

Trade Minister Don Farrell is also preparing to visit China as the two nations continue talks on dropping billions of dollars worth of trade sanctions against Australian industries, including seafood, cotton and timber.

Australian coal began being unloaded at Chinese ports in February following an unofficial embargo imposed at the start of the pandemic.

Mr McGowan was among the strongest critics of the former Morrison government’s tough rhetoric regarding China.

WA exported $136 billion worth of goods to China in the 2022 financial year with iron ore accounting for the bulk of the trade.

The premier confirmed he had been briefed on Australia’s plan to acquire nuclear-powered submarines ahead of an announcement on Monday by Mr Albanese, US President Joe Biden, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

He declined to comment on the expected benefit the AUKUS security pact would have on WA’s shipbuilding industry.

China has criticised the agreement, accusing the US of sparking an arms race and threatening peace in the region.

Mr McGowan’s approval rating has dropped to 63 per cent, its lowest level since before the pandemic but still more than double that of Liberal leader Libby Mettam, according to a survey reported by the West Australian newspaper.

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