Minister Assisting the Premier on Employment, Trade and Investment Gordon Hill has asked representatives of a 280-member delegation from France to examine a proposal to build a replica of Admiral D'Entrecasteaux flagship, the 'Recherche' in Western Australia.
The delegation arrived in Perth yesterday and is the largest from France ever to visit Perth.
It is headed by the Vice President of the Regional Council Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azure, Mmme Ivane Eymieu (equivalent to our Deputy Premier).
Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azure is the fastest growing region in France and the State Government hopes to encourage closer ties.
The delegation will be in WA until December 14 and amongst other activities, will commemorate the bicentenary anniversary of the landing of Admiral Bruni D'Entrecasteaux on the south-west coast of WA in 1792.
Mr Hill said although links existed already between Provence and WA, he hoped these would develop further as a result of the visit.
"WA's exports to France increased by eight per cent in 1991-92, and are worth $183.8 million to the State," he said.
"Our main exports to France include iron ore, wool and pigments, but I hope this visit will open the doors for further trade opportunities.
"WA and Provence have no less than five twin-town relationships - Albany with Draguignon; Fremantle with Toulon; Subiaco with Aix en Provence; Kalgoorlie with Arles; and Esperance with St Martin Ile de Re," Mr Hill said.
"The WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry is also forging business links through the Provence-Western Australian Business Club."
Today, Mr Hill met five senior members of the delegation, and invited them to sample a selection of WA lobster and wines.
The lobster was supplied by WA Seafoods and the wines compliments of Houghtons and Evans and Tate.
"It is my belief that more WA wines and seafood should be gracing European tables and I hope this small sample will leave the delegates with a taste for more," Mr Hill said.
However, he added that WA had more to offer the French than just its fine produce.
"It has been brought to my attention that the Endeavour project at Fremantle is in its final phase and that once the replica is completed the facility may have to close.
"If it shuts its doors, the efforts of a unique team of shipbuilders, craftsmen and artisans - the likes of which are hard to find anywhere else in the world today - will cease.
"The delegation is here in WA for many reasons but a major purpose is to celebrate Admiral D'Entrecasteaux discovery voyage and landing at Esperance Bay.
"His flagship was the 'Recherche', and what better way to honour the admiral's achievement than to reconstruct a replica.
"I have asked the delegation to consider the idea.
"Such a project would not only be technically feasible, but would create a new tourist attraction, with a decidedly international flavour - a permanent tribute to Admiral D'Entrecasteaux and an attraction which would promote more French tourism to the Esperance area," Mr Hill said.