Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett said he plans to use his first official visit to China to restore confidence in Chinese State officials that their country remains an important export partner with the State.
“I will be reassuring government and industry leaders that China is valued by Western Australia as a customer, as an investor and as a supplier of industrial equipment,” he said.
According to Barnett, recent events including the detention of Rio Tinto’s Stern Hu, controversy over iron ore prices and the collapse of the Rio Tinto-Chinalco deal have created strain in the relationship between China and Western Australia.
“While recent events have caused disappointment and confusion in China, the enormous opportunities for both China and Western Australia in future resources development and job creation should not be overlooked,” he said.
Barnett faces renewed pressure over the Oakajee port and rail project after Chinese State-owned Sinosteel, a major investor in the new iron ore province, voiced its anger over a slow-moving approvals process that it said is costing the company $4.5 million a month.
In a statement delivered over the weekend by China’s Perth Consulate-General’s office, Sinosteel said delays from the Environmental Protection Authority in commissioning the Oakajee project are costing an extra $160 million a year.
Barnett also said that while he will try to help detained Australian Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu if it is appropriate, he will not do anything that may harm Hu’s status.
“I will be very careful to make sure anything I say and do will not harm Mr Hu’s position,” he said.