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WA will do everything it can to preserve trading relationship with China: McGowan

“I fear for the future if we don’t.”

Mr McGowan has often tempered his comments around Australian-Chinese relations whilst calling on the federal government to take a softer approach to its diplomacy.

The premier has also in the past said foreign policy is the domain of the national government but he did not beat around the bush on Wednesday at the CEDA event when he declared WA would do everything it could to maintain a strong financial standing.

“We will do everything we can as a state to preserve our strong trading relationships whether with India, Japan, the United States or China,” he said.

“Because we are at heart a trading state and we cannot afford to squander our economic success by losing long standing trading relationships and most importantly, we’ll deliver our vision for a secure post-pandemic future for WA.

“The relationship is incredibly important, all the people in this room will understand, China is a massive market. It is rapidly growing into a middle class country. It buys enormous numbers of products from Australia.

“The state that benefits the most from the relationship is WA and I think that is lost in the eastern states.”

Mark McGowan told the State of the State crowd WA would do everything it could to preserve its trading relationships.

Mark McGowan told the State of the State crowd WA would do everything it could to preserve its trading relationships.Credit:Peter de Kruijff

WA has sold $100 billion worth of products into China over the past 12 months and bought $4 billion of materials in return.

“We have a 96 billion trade surplus with China,” Mr McGowan said.

“That results in over 200,000 WA jobs.

“You cannot discard that relationship lightly. It is important. It is important to all our prosperity.

“I’m just very keen and I make the offer, anything the state can do to repair the relationship, it is very important, for all of our futures but also our children and our prosperity in the future.”

Tension with China has been high as it stacks up trade barriers and bans on Australian exports after the latter called for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

The past week has been tumultuous after a Chinese government official tweeted a doctored image of an Australian soldier about to cut the throat of an Afghan child.

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The tweet was in response to the inquiry into the conduct of the Special Air Service in Afghanistan which reported allegations of war crimes and murders committed by Australian soldiers.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for an apology from the Chinese government over the image.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Wednesday the situation with China, which has a $200 billion two-way trade with Australia, was serious.

“China is our number one trading partner. Many Australian jobs rely on trade,” he said.

“I’m very optimistic about the opportunities for our exporters around the world, but that being said, the situation with China is very serious.”

Mr McGowan said he did not think there was a sovereignty argument when it came to supporting the United States and trading with China.

“I support us being a sovereign state … that will all continue. But that doesn’t mean we somehow create a false argument about our sovereignty,” he said.

“We are a sovereign state, and we will continue to be a sovereign state.”

Mr McGowan also used his speech on Wednesday to talk up the state’s economic situation saying he thought WA would survive the end of government stimulus packages better than other states.

“The reason I say that is every indicator whether it’s trade or it’s our domestic economy is incredibly strong,” he said.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on Wednesday showed WA’s state final demand was up 4.9 per cent for September and household spending had the largest jump in the nation at 11.7 per cent, which was well above the 7.9 per cent national average.

National gross domestic product grew 3.3 per cent in the three months to September following a 7 per cent contraction in the previous June period.

Mr McGowan said the ABS data showed WA was the only state in the nation that had grown in annual average terms.

Opposition leader Zak Kirkup said WA had actually experienced the weakest demand of any state on record besides Victoria, which had been in lockdown.

“We see once again that Labor has no economic plan for our state, this is why this election matters so much, because Labor has no plan beyond COVID-19, has no vision for our future and it’s impacting West Australians and the way we live right now,” he said.

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