Israel expects "to significantly increase" its water technology exports to China over the next few years following a successful round of meetings between National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Chinese water-technology leaders attending WATEC Israel 2007. "China is highly interested in the Israeli expertise in water management," Hezi Kugler, director general of the National Infrastructures Ministry told The Jerusalem Post. "They are very interested in our desalination techniques - the entire delegation travelled to see IDE Technology's desalination plant in Ashkelon - there is definitely a lot of interest." According to the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, China, one of the world's fastest growing countries, expects that over the coming years at least 400 of its cities will face a serious water crisis. "The rapid growth of China's population will present the country with numerous challenges, both in terms of their water supply as well as in water pollution," said Oded Arbel, Israel's economic attache in China, ahead of the WATEC conference, which runs through today at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. "This means that there is a great opportunity for Israeli companies to move into the Chinese market." Ben-Eliezer also met with a group of governmental leaders from Australia, another fertile market for Israeli water technology, as it has now suffered through 11 years of drought. "We had a very productive discussion and renewed a sense of the warmth of our relationship," Tim Holding, the Minister for Water in the State Government of Victoria, Australia, told the Post. Israel and Australia completed about $700 million worth of trade last year, with Israel mainly exporting hi-tech, plastic and chemical products to Australia, a number that is expected to grow considerably once Israel increases its water-tech exports to the country. "Israel is a really good demonstration of necessity being the mother of invention," said Michelle Lensink, the Shadow Minister for the Environment in South Australia. "Our government has not acted fast enough to combat the effects of the drought and we would really like to move the Israeli technology into our markets." Lensink added that a representative from IDE's Ashkelon desalination plant is now in Australia in an effort to help facilitate the introduction of technology in the very arid South Australian region. Separately, on Wednesday, the Israeli water companies Mekorot and Whitewater announced that they have signed an cooperative agreement to construct water security systems that will be marketed and sold primarily to developing countries around the world. The principles of the agreement were approved by the directorates of both countries. The value of the agreement was not disclosed.