Premier Colin Barnett has placed expanding ties with Africa at the centrepiece of an ambitious international relations push should he be returned to power at next month's State election.
Mr Barnett told _WestBusiness _yesterday that if re-elected his government would establish a WA-first African trade office in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
He said this was in part to support the wave of West Australian mining and mining services companies already scouring the highly-prospective continent for resource riches as the peak of mining investment passes in Australia.
"I think it will be good for mining companies and mining services companies to have a WA Government presence in the region," Mr Barnett said. "They know what they are doing, but we can probably help with building that government to government link and combining it with some humanitarian programs."
More than 146 ASX-listed companies, most with a WA base and a combined worth of more than $12 billion, are Africa focused, according to resource information provider Intierra. The announcement expands on Mr Barnett's pitch to Asian trading partners over the past two years, including the signing of a landmark memorandum of understanding on resource and agricultural tie-ups with Beijing's top development body.
The WA Government also opened a new trade office in Singapore, but shuttered a representative presence in Malaysia in the process.
It also closed a longstanding trade office in the US, post the financial crisis, arguing companies did not need government help in the established economy.
However, Mr Barnett's de facto foreign policy, and his rhetoric that WA's future lies with Asia, not Canberra, has been criticised by Labor, with Federal Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson accusing Mr Barnett of not being a "team player" and diluting Australia's diplomatic efforts offshore.
Mr Barnett rejected the criticism, and said while Asia was still very much at the core of WA's future, the Federal Government's Asian Century white paper had underplayed important and growing regions such as India and Africa.
He said he could use facts such as WA accounting for 80 per cent of Chinese investment in Australia to the State's advantage. "I can leverage off that and it has nothing to do with Colin Barnett the individual, although I think I work pretty hard at it, but we have a standing in Asia that a State Premier would not normally have," he said.
Mr Barnett was scheduled to unveil the policy to more than 1000 people at a Liberal party fundraising dinner last night.
He said he would work to strengthen ties with Singapore, which he argues is now the dominant centre for mining-related financing for the State. He also said instability in Kenya could be managed.
We can probably help with building that government to government link. "
Premier Colin Barnett
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