Today I announce that the Hon Richard Court AC will be Australia's next Ambassador to Japan.
Japan is Australia's closest strategic and one of our most important economic partners in Asia. Security and defence ties continue to grow strongly under our Special Strategic Partnership and through shared interests in a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region and in economic and trade policies that promote regional prosperity.
In 2015, Japan was Australia's second-largest trading partner and export market, with two-way trade of over $70 billion. It was also Australia's second largest in-bound direct foreign investor. The Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA) is further strengthening business ties with more than 90 per cent of eligible Australian exports to Japan benefitting from lower tariffs.
We also enjoy close education and people-to-people links. In 2017, the Australian Government's New Colombo Plan will support an additional 500 Australian undergraduate students from 25 universities to study and undertake internships in Japan . Japanese is also the most-studied foreign language in Australia. More than 300,000 Australians are expected to visit Japan this year and Japan's hosting of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will further deepen the linkages between our two countries.
Mr Court, the Premier of Western Australia from 1993 to 2001, has held several senior positions and directorships in private and public companies since leaving politics, including Resource Investment Strategy Consultants, the Anglican Diocesan Trustees and the Olympic Team Appeal for Western Australia.
In 2008 His Majesty the Emperor of Japan conferred honours upon Mr Court, bestowing the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star for exceptional contributions to the expansion of Australia-Japan relations. Mr Court was made a Companion of the Order of Australia for services to Western Australia and the community.
Mr Court holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Western Australia. He is expected to take up his appointment in early 2017.
I thank the outgoing Ambassador, Mr Bruce Miller, for his outstanding contribution to advancing Australia's interests in Japan since 2011.
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