Prime Minister Julia Gillard will today announce that the Government intends to open a Consulate-General in Chengdu, the capital of China's Sichuan Province.
The announcement comes as Australia and the People's Republic of China celebrate this year their 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
Australia has had a diplomatic presence in China for almost 40 years. Our Embassy in Beijing was established in 1973 and our Consulates-General in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong in 1984, 1992 and 1986 respectively.
The Prime Minister said broadening Australia's diplomatic presence in China was a priority for the Government as the Asian Century unfolded. The new mission is a down-payment on the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper.
Today's announcement comes after careful Government consideration of an expanded diplomatic presence in Western China, led by the former Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.
The new Consulate-General will increase our diplomatic footprint and will help build on our ever-growing relationship with China.
The creation of the new post will also help identify and build on these opportunities for Australian businesses.
Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr said the Consulate-General in Chengdu will provide a direct link to a diverse province which is home to over 80 million people.
Chengdu is a major gateway to the vibrant inland regions, which account for a growing share of China's trade, foreign investment and economic growth.
Cities like Chengdu will be central to the innovative, high-skill, high-tech, higher-income growth which will drive the next stage of China's remarkable economic transformation.
Minister for Trade and Competitiveness Craig Emerson, who last year visited Chengdu while leading a 100-strong business delegation through China's inland growth centres, said the move would help strengthen and expand trade partnerships.
China is already Australia's largest two-way trade partner, with total trade valued at over $113 billion in 2010-11.
Many Australian companies, including Bluescope Steel, Rheem, ANZ and Cochlear, are already active in western China.
Dr Emerson said a dedicated Consulate-General in this rapidly growing region would help develop demand for the sophisticated goods and services which Australia was well placed to provide.
Funding for the new Consulate-General will be provided for in the forthcoming budget. The Consulate-General will be operational as soon as possible following completion of formal establishment processes with China.
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