International affairs

Tasmania-US relationship strong in wake of opportunities in Asia

The opportunities that arise with the emergence of the Asian century won’t come at the expense of Tasmania’s relationship with the US, Premier of Tasmania, Lara Giddings told a CEDA audience in Hobart at Tasmania’s State of the State forum.

The opportunities that arise with the emergence of the Asian century won't come at the expense of Tasmania's relationship with the US, Premier of Tasmania, Lara Giddings told a CEDA audience in Hobart at Tasmania's State of the State forum.

She said the wealth and opportunities created from Asia is something we welcome and will impact both the Tasmanian and US economies in the coming decades.

She said both the US and Tasmania recognise the need to make the most of the opportunities created by success in Asia.

"The problems and challenges we (US and Tasmania) face are not worlds apart. Issues like the continuing impact of the GFC, the state of the economy and unemployment are all much of the same challenges that are being faced in the US and Tasmania," she said.

Ms Giddings believes there are great opportunities to maintain and expand strategic and economic ties with the US.

"Despite the increasing economic significance of the Asian region, Tasmania's international merchandise exports to the US have increased by 51 per cent over the last five years," she said.

"Around 13 per cent of international visitors to Tasmania in 2011-12 came from the US and the 18,700 Americans who came to our shores were the most from any single country."

She told attendees Tasmania has the opportunity to utilise its natural advantages.

"One key advantage is water. Tasmania makes up just one per cent of Australia's land mass but we have 12 per cent of its fresh water," she said.

This will allow us to transform the farming landscape and invest in our rural industries with the aim to double dairy production, double the size of the aquaculture industry, and quadruple our wine sector, she said.

Ms Giddings also said the National Broadband Network (NBN) would open opportunities with the US IT industry and build relationships with companies such as Apple, Google and IBM.

US Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey L Bleich emphasised the NBN would create a special chance for the US to partner with Tasmania and establish it as a "living laboratory", like the Silicon Valley in Northern California, in innovative, sustainable, social, environmental and economic management.

Mr Bleich said the US-Tasmanian economic relationship would be enhanced by US promotion of green and clean technology.

"We both will benefit from trade and investment with each other to advance commitment to wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and biomass energy," he said.

"We are investing in ways to develop and produce food to increase harvests in this region, to eliminate waste, power agriculture and essentially to do what Tasmania is doing.

"These technologies, we hope, will help Tasmania achieve its full-time goal and its capacity to become one of Asia's great food bowls."

Mr Bleich said he is looking to bring US artists to Tasmania by supporting Tasmania's Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and MONA's music festival by providing additional support to the Ten days on the island festival - Tasmania's international arts festival.

"We are also working with the City of Hobart to explore the potential of a sister city relationship with a city in the US. This type of relationship can really bear great benefits," he said.

Like Ms Giddings, Mr Bleich highlighted both the US and Australia has an enormous stake in China's economic development and the economic development of Asia.

He said an important element of the Australia-US economic relationship was not merely gross trade but also investment and types of trade.

"When it comes to investment, Australia's greatest friend and benefactor is the US," he said.

"US direct investment in Australia has more than doubled from 2006-11 from $67 billion to $136 billion, and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the total bilateral investment was almost $1 trillion in 2010 - including direct and indirect portfolio investment."

Our investment, trade and people to people relationship mean Australia remains a top economic partner. There is no better friend in the world than Australia, he said.