Major trade opportunities with Russia have become a real possibility following months of sensitive negotiations between Agriculture Minister Ernie Bridge and key Russian officials.
Mr Bridge today confirmed plans for Western Australia to establish a presence in Vladivostock to assist WA producers and industry secure new and future agriculture and horticulture contracts.
Vladivistock is the capital and port city of the Primorskiy Far East region of Russia, which has a population of 59 million people.
Mr Bridge said details of the size and extent of the WA presence were still being negotiated, but it was evident that WA could not gain the knowledge and contacts required for trade with such an enormous country without a highly skilled marketing presence in the region.
In May this year, Mr Bridge became the first Australian State Minister to visit Far Eastern Russia when he responded to a personal invitation from the First Vice-Chairman of the Primorskiy Territory, Mr Igor Chernyanskiy.
Mr Chernyanskiy had earlier headed a delegation of government and industry officials visiting WA, which established the initial parameters for trade and personal contact with Mr Bridge and his ministerial export marketing unit.
Mr Bridge said the Russian officials believed a direct trading link with WA, and a WA presence in Far Eastern Russia, would be of enormous benefit to both countries.
"To take advantage of the opportunities now being given to WA, it is essential we move swiftly to facilitate two-way trade before Russia's harsh winter sets in," Mr Bridge said.
"It was made very clear to us that securing food supply contracts before winter was Russia's major priority."
Mr Bridge said he met with a number of WA industry representatives earlier this month to discuss the Russian proposal, and had been given strong support to proceed with present negotiations.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for WA, bearing in mind the huge population such a market holds," he said.
"A WA presence in Vladivostock is mandatory if we are to properly facilitate and identify trade opportunities in the Primorskiy Territory."