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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Lobsters on ice as premier seeks China trade thaw

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas is heading to China alongside a business delegation determined to normalise trade with the Asian superpower.



As the first South Australian premier to set foot on Chinese soil since 2019, Peter Malinauskas senses green shoots in Australia's relationship with its largest trading partner.


Mr Malinauskas will become the latest in a procession of state leaders to visit China following trips by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and former Western Australian leader Mark McGowan earlier in 2023.


Local producers hope the growing dialogue is a sign Australia is once again in the good books after years of punitive trade restrictions and hawkish rhetoric.


Mr Malinauskas heads a delegation of education, wine, agriculture, aquaculture, tourism and trade representatives, with the aim of lifting restrictions on South Australian lobsters and wine that have crippled both industries.


The week-long trip comes after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced he will also visit China in coming months.


There are growing expectations the superpower could soon lift bans on other Australian imports after it recently relaxed tariffs on barley and timber.


"Sometimes when we see global tectonic diplomatic power plays at work we forget it has a real impact on the lives of thousands of South Australians," Mr Malinauskas told reporters ahead of his departure on Thursday.


"Travel to the limestone coast and you will hear firsthand stories from families whose lives have been devastated as a result of these punitive tariffs."


Among the delegation is Travis Fuller, general manager of Kilikanoon Wines, north of Adelaide.


He is not concerned that progress has been slower for his industry than it was for barley growers, given wine is a luxury good and not necessarily as essential to China as other products.


"We're in it for the long haul. These things take time," Mr Fuller said.

While in China, Mr Malinauskas will visit Beijing, Shanghai and Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, SA's sister state.


Besides lifting tariffs, the vice-chancellors from two South Australian universities will join the premier in trying to win over Chinese students.


The government is going ahead with plans to merge the University of Adelaide and UniSA, aimed in part at attracting more international students and the economic benefits they bring.


The delegation's first port of call is Singapore, where it will attempt to court more investment, before touching down in Beijing on Saturday.


The group returns to Australia the following Friday after a short stop in Hong Kong, where the SA premier will try to convince Cathay Pacific to resume international flights into Adelaide.


SA Opposition Leader David Speirs gave his support to the trade mission, pleased the relationship with China appeared to be back on track.


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