US Opens Service Office in Western Australia

PERTH - The U.S. has opened a commercial service office in Western Australia state, reflecting an investment surge driven largely by U.S. energy companies seeking to export natural gas to Asia, the U.S.'s top diplomat in Australia said Wednesday. 

The official launch signals the U.S. isn't just investing in Australia's key resources state for a boom period, Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich told reporters at a media conference. 

"There is great promise for long-term prosperity in Western Australia and we are committed to a long-term relationship out here," he said. "There is nowhere that we are betting more heavily than here." 

Companies such as Chevron Corp., ExxonMobil Corp., ConocoPhillips, Apache Corp., General Electric Co. and Caterpillar Inc. are investing heavily in projects that can help meet rising Asian demand for commodities and energy. 

Chevron is leading development of the Gorgon and Wheatstone liquefied natural gas, or LNG, projects in Western Australia state worth a combined US$80 billion. Exxon is an investor in Gorgon, and this month sought regulatory approval to develop the offshore Scarborough gas field using the world's biggest floating LNG vessel. 

The Perth office will offer local businesses access to thousands of U.S. companies, many of them export-oriented and looking to invest in Western Australia, Mr. Bleich said. 

The Perth commercial division, located in the U.S. consulate, will complement similar offices in Canberra and Sydney in eastern Australia.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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