Sydney-China Business Forum

(11am, Monday 18 February 2013, The Vestibule, Sydney Town Hall)

Thank you, Claudia [Chan Shaw, MC]. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Town Hall - and for our guests from Shenzhen, once again a warm welcome to Sydney.

I would like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nations who call our city home.

I would also like to welcome Mr Duan Jielong, Consul-General of the People's Republic of China in Sydney, and Madame Wu Yihuan, Vice-Mayor of Shenzhen People's Government.

I hope you all enjoyed last night's Chinese New Year parade. Our Sydney residents and visitors certainly did! And its growing popularity has come to symbolise this city's growing links with China.

From a small local fair which started 17 years ago, attracting a mainly Chinese audience, it has grown into a major event for the whole Sydney community. It is now the largest Lunar New Year celebration outside Asia, thanks to the energy and flair of our Sydney Chinese community, and in more recent years, thanks also to the generous support of the Chinese government and its representatives in Australia.

Through associated forums such as this, it has also helped us gain a better understanding of China's cities and regions and has given us the opportunity to present Sydney to China.

As the world's centre of gravity shifts eastwards, the bridges we can build in the Asia-Pacific can play an important part not only in strengthening our economies but in promoting stability and regional co-operation.

China is now Australia's largest trading partner and those strong economic ties are evident in Sydney.

Since 1999, major banks such as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank, the Bank of Communications and the Agricultural Bank of China have opened offices in Sydney, recognising our City as an important regional hub for financial and business services.

Since 2004, Huawei, the Chinese multinational which is one of the two largest telcos in the world, has sited its Australian headquarters in Sydney.

China's trade with the Sydney metropolitan area has grown to about $10 billion. It would astonish those first Chinese merchants and traders and fortune seekers who came to what was then a small colony in the 19th century.

Our ties with China are of long standing and our similarities with Shenzhen are striking.

We are both port cities, and global gateways for our respective countries.

We are both committed to promoting environmental sustainability while continuing to foster economic growth.

And we are both making the transition from a manufacturing base to service industries, particularly financial services.

Business services, in fact, form Sydney's largest employment sector, followed by financial and insurance services, while Shenzhen is home to one of China's three stock exchanges.

Our two cities already have strong economic ties, with the Shenzhen Economic and Trade Representative Office based in Sydney.

And with Sydney as the regional headquarters for more than 600 multinational companies, it is no surprise that more Shenzhen companies are also looking to establish themselves here.

Hand-in-hand with that commercial expansion comes an increasing number of visitors from China.

Tourism figures have been building over a number of years and this year the City will release our action plans for tourism, retail, and international education - all vital sections of our City economy.

The NSW Government has also been active, with reports and strategies released last year looking at the Visitor Economy, International Education, and a strategy looking at tourism from China.

So our guest list includes representatives of these sectors, as well as from those businesses which are looking to build closer trade and investment ties with China - and with Shenzhen in particular.

Once again, welcome to you all and I hope you will find the next few hours fruitful and productive.

Thank you again for coming here today.