by Matt Goss, Xu Haijing
CANBERRA, March 28 (Xinhua) -- China's Belt and Road Initiative presented exciting opportunities for all Australian companies to increase trade with China and develop new projects in a third country, Malcolm Broomhead, a renowned Australian business leader said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Tuesday.
Broomhead, chairman of Australian mining services company Orica, said that Australian industry was fully supportive of the Belt and Road Initiative, a massive economic and trade project for common development and prosperity in countries along its routes in Europe, Africa and Asia, proposed by China in 2013.
Orica, which currently operates in 52 countries, would benefit greatly from increased opportunities along the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (Belt and Road), especially in Central Asia under the initiative, said Broomhead, who served as the company's Chief Executive Officer from 2001 to 2005.
"We think there's a big opportunity for service companies, it's complicated because it's not just China and Australia, there's a third country involved in each case as you go along the Belt and Road, but there is opportunity for this to be a major development," Broomhead said.
Australia's close neighbor New Zealand on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the cooperation with China on the Belt and Road, becoming the first developed country to sign such an agreement.
Broomhead said that it's only a matter of time until Australia signs a cooperation agreement with China on the initiative.
He said he's optimistic that New Zealand's signing of the MoU with China regarding the initiative would prompt the Australian government to follow suit, just as the cases of free trade agreement.
New Zealand signed a free trade agreement with China in 2008, seven years before Australia signed a similar one with China in 2015 after 10 years of negotiation.
"Hopefully it won't be many years. I would hope it happen quite quickly because it's logical, our industry wants it," Broomhead said. "I'd like to see it happen as soon as possible."
"From Australia's point of view, the Belt and Road initiative is important because it enables our companies to partner with Chinese State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) more easily and our ability to have Chinese companies involved in Australia is made much easier."
Broomhead, who also sits on the board of Australian mining giant BHP Billiton, said northern Australia in particular would benefit from the Belt and Road initiative.
He said that opportunities such as ones which have recently become available to farmers in northern Queensland, who recently began flying fresh products to Shanghai daily via a new airport in Toowoomba, would become more common if the initiative was fully realized.
Broomhead, who was one of the business leaders who met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his visit to Australia last week, said the official trip was representative of the strengthening relationship between Australia and China.
"It was a very important visit for Australia, and for Australian industry. Both the Premier and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have agreed to further the liberalization of trade between the two countries and that is enormously important for Australia and we very much welcome that," he said.
"The fact that the Premier spent five days in Australia is indicative of how seriously the Chinese side takes the relationship, and to Australian industry, it is an important message."
"It is very exciting and I think what's very interesting, that in a time when some of the world is looking inward, that China is leading the liberalization of trade and that's very healthy for our region."
While the rate of China's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth may slow slightly, Broomhead said he had absolute confidence in China's economy.
"Perhaps the rate of growth will come down a little bit, simply because the economy is getting so much bigger, but the amount of growth will continue to be very strong," he told Xinhua.
"As a percentage of a bigger pie then perhaps it's not as large but it's still the biggest and most positive economy that I see around the world."