Sydney China forum 2011 welcome

(8.45am 29 November 2011, Barnet Long Room Customs House)

Thank you, David Goodman, Professor and Director China Studies Centre, and good morning, everyone. Welcome to Customs House - and for our visitors, welcome to Sydney. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nationalities who live in our City.

And of course our Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, the Hon Wayne Swan, who will join us via video; Minister for Trade, the Hon Craig Emerson and I acknowledge Federal Members of Parliament Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey.

On behalf of us all, I think the University of Sydney China Studies Centre and the Caixin business media group for instigating this forum.

China is Australia's largest trading partner, and this is occurring at a time when the centre of the global economy is shifting to this region and this time zone.

China's astonishing economic growth is creating ever more opportunities for an increased level of engagement and NSW and Australia make an attractive direct investment environment for China.

The resource sectors are the most talked about.

But there are opportunities in education, banking, financial management, architecture, design, green technology, urban planning, water and air quality and waste management - with no little expertise here in Sydney.

We are Australia's largest centre for finance and business services that are serving China. Business services, in fact, represent Sydney's largest employment sector, followed by financial and insurance services.

The City of Sydney local government area represents one-twelfth of the total economy of Australia. If we were an independent nation, we would be among the world's top 50 economies. We are headquarters to more international companies than any other Australian city, and we draw by far the greatest number of tourists and migrants.

We are Australia's gateway to the world - and the world's gateway to Australia. A creative city whose highly-educated, multi-cultural population harbours a wealth of ideas, talent and inspiration.

We are strategically placed to link China with South Asia and the Pacific, and we are seeing a number of significant Chinese financial institutions which are basing their regional headquarters in Sydney.

Since 2007, major banks such as the China Construction Bank and the People's Bank of China have had offices in Sydney, recognising this City as an important regional hub for financial and business services.

Through our Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy, the City is developing world-leading systems to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, conserve water and recycle waste and we are forging links with cities around the world to learn from them and share our knowledge.

So many of the tools to reduce our impact on global climate lie in the hands of city governments who can provide national governments with proven ways in which to meet the challenge of climate change.

We know, through our regular forums with Chinese provincial governments, of the work that is being done there to deal with climate change.

These forums have developed from our annual Chinese New Year celebrations which first began 15 years ago, starting as a small fair attracting a mainly Chinese audience.

Thanks to the energy and flair of our Sydney Chinese community, and more recently, thanks to the generous support of the Chinese government and its representatives in Australia, it has grown into the largest Lunar New Year celebration outside Asia.

In recent years, it has become a springboard for a closer economic engagement between the City of Sydney and the major regions of China.

This closer engagement makes sense. Today, almost 10 per cent of the City's population is of Chinese ancestry, and almost one in 10 of our residents is a Chinese speaker. Chinese is now the most common language spoken at home after English.

Over 60 per cent of Chinese business visitors to Australia come to Sydney and large numbers of Chinese students attend our universities, making up almost one fifth of all overseas students. Many of them also live within our City boundaries.

At the same time, many Sydney financial and service companies are expanding into China and we continue to look for opportunities for greater harmonious collaboration.

This forum can only strengthen our auspicious relationships. I wish it well.