A council tour of China and Hong Kong may not be about ‘roads, rates, and rubbish’ but it is key to our future economic growth, according to City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Dinny Adem.
A delegation from the council flew from Melbourne last week for a five-day tour which the mayor said was much more than a travel junket.
The mayor met with leaders of Chinese businesses, which he hoped could bring big investment to the Shepparton region.
Cr Adem said he understood people would be critical of the costs of the mayor going overseas, but that the value of ‘‘face-to-face’’ communications with potential trading and business partners could not be understated.
‘‘The face-to-face stuff is vital,’’ Cr Adem said.
Some of the meetings were with Chinese solar energy companies, which he said were interested in investing in Australia.
‘‘One of the companies is very large and they’ve already been to Shepparton twice, so this is a return visit to a degree,’’ he said.
‘‘I am positive they will do something, but there are no guarantees of course.’’
Cr Adem said face-to-face communication was highly valued when doing business, and could be key in where a company chose to invest.
‘‘The numbers could stack up in all of the towns, but how do they choose one over the other?’’ Cr Adem asked
‘‘It’s whether they like you, whether they click with you.’’
The strong international focus from the council was boosted last year when Cr Adem flew to China on a Victorian Government trade delegation.
Despite invitations from the government to several Victorian mayors, Cr Adem was the only one who took up the offer.
He attributed the reluctance from other mayors to the council elections which were just a few weeks after the tour.
But despite the snub from the other mayors, he said it gave him an opportunity to talk one-on-one with many key businesses leaders.
Agriculture was another strong focus of last week’s tour, with the delegation travelling to the Asia Fruit Logistica trade expo in Hong Kong to see what opportunities could be around for local growers.
‘‘It was all about how best you could present your fruit to the Asia market, your variety of fruit and quality of fruit,’’ the council’s chief executive officer Peter Harriott said.
‘‘What our growers are aiming at is getting a premium price for a premium product.’’
But to make the most of improved trade brought about by the China Australia Free Trade Agreement, growers needed to learn what protocols they need to meet to access the Chinese market.
Although there was no big trade announcement from the tour, and with an estimated cost of more than $5000, Cr Adem said it would pay off eventually.
‘‘Our largest industry is agriculture, and horticulture is a huge part of that, that is our economy,’’ he said.
‘‘Why can’t council be supporting our major industry that keeps this place afloat? We are more than just rates, roads and rubbish.’’