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Staff writer

Queensland is eyeing enhanced cooperation with Japan in biotechnology, according to the leader of the state government who visited Japan this week.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, 46, on Thursday wrapped up a five-day visit to Japan to nurture new business opportunities through discussions with government and business leaders.

“Clearly, Japan is Queensland’s major trading partner. That covers everything from coal to farm industries,” Beattie said. “We are talking of new joint ventures and partnerships in areas like information technology and biotechnology.”

After being sworn in as premier in June 1998, Beattie began a drive to make the Australian state come to be known in the next century as the “Smart State” — a blueprint for Queensland based upon new, knowledge-based industries.

Beattie said he is focusing on a 10-year strategy to make the state a leading hub for biotechnology development in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Australian government has earmarked 270 million Australian dollars (19.3 billion yen) for biotechnology research over 10 years to help create thousands of jobs for Queenslanders in new industries.

As for cooperation with Japan, Beattie said that during his stay he had very fruitful talks with the Liberal Democratic Party’s parliamentary committee on life sciences, saying he was particularly impressed that the Japanese government has made a significant effort to encourage biotechnology research.

Beattie cited Queensland’s unique points, such as the Great Barrier Reef, as potential research sites. “We offer Japanese investors and researchers a unique opportunity to participate in this research.”

During a seminar on biotechnology Tuesday, organized by the Queensland government, Japanese participants seemed interested in cooperating with the state in this field, Beattie said.

“We think biotechnology is going to be quite revolutionary,” he said. “It’s a new thing for both Japan and us,” he said.

The premier also said he never forgets the importance of conserving nature and that preserving Queensland’s environment is one of his policy planks, he said.

Last December, the Queensland government established the Environment Protection Agency to achieve real and long-term improvements in the way the state develops and conserves its environment.

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