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Chinese connection

COMMITTEE for Echuca Moama chief executive Martin Szakal recently returned from a trade and economic development trip to China.

Mr Szakal met with various Chinese and Australian based trade development officers to understand the opportunities for trade and collaboration in smaller cities.

The self-funded visit closely follows visitations from various Chinese government departments to central Victoria and Echuca-Moama.

“I visited the Victorian Government office in Beijing and saw the region that will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, so tourism development and investment discussions were plentiful,” Mr Szakal said.

“I also presented for ten minutes to the Hebei Chamber of Commerce on the Victorian economy including exports and specific insights into Central and Northern Victoria.

“From this came conversations regarding policies that will facilitate growth through cutting red tape and offering strong support for businesses who value-add local products that create employment.”

Although there have been reports of strained political ties between China and Australia, Mr. Szakal said Chinese businesses were very open to collaboration.

“Naturally if there is a business case to support the opportunity, they are interested,” he said.

“I introduced our region’s assets to some regional cities and offered insights into our local projects.

“This initiated a relationship that might help facilitate some visitation and trade for the future.”

The visitation and itinerary was managed by Global City Connect, a regionally based international engagement organisation.

‘‘Agribusiness was a key topic including the potential importation of nectarines into China,’’ Mr Szakal said.

“One business was keen to understand if they could procure nectarines for their canning factory and another wanted to learn more about smart farming technology.’’

Mr Szakal said as Australia’s largest food and fibre exporter, Victoria accounts for 25 per cent of Australian food and fibre exports, while accounting for just 3 per cent of the total landmass.

In 2016–17, Victoria accounted for 79 per cent of Australia’s dairy exports, 55 per cent of wool exports, 46 per cent of horticultural exports and 38 per cent of prepared food exports.

“There are many local businesses participating in export activities in China,” he said.

“There are many opportunities for producers and manufactures to explore.”

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