A comprehensive economic, security and strategic partnership
Speech at The Australia-Japan Conference Dinner
11 February 2010
Mr Akio Mimura and Sir Rod Eddington, Conference Co-chairs;
my Parliamentary colleagues;
Members of the Board of the Australia-Japan Foundation;
ladies and gentlemen;
I am delighted to be here this evening for the sixth Australia-Japan Conference Dinner.
Many of you have travelled a great distance to be here. As our honoured guests, you are very welcome in Australia.
I thank the two co-chairs of the Conference, Mr Akio Mimura and Sir Rod Eddington, for their work as respective chairs of the Japan-Australia and Australia-Japan Business Cooperation Committees, and for their strong leadership since the last Australia-Japan Conference in 2008.
I acknowledge Mr Peter Corish and the other members of the Australia-Japan Foundation Board, past and present, for their work in building the Australia-Japan relationship, particularly through building greater awareness of Australia in Japan.
I commend the Australia-Japan Foundation for providing generous financial support for this Conference.
The Australia-Japan Conference was first held in Australia in 2001.
It was established to bring together leaders in their fields from both countries to discuss all aspects of the relationship, including political and economic cooperation, education, science, the media, the arts and culture.
The 2001 Conference was held in Sydney, and attracted senior participants from both countries, including journalists, members of parliament, business people and academics.
I doubt that any of the Conference participants in 2001 would have predicted that by 2010 Australia and Japan would be negotiating a Free Trade Agreement, or holding annual joint meetings of Foreign Affairs and Defence ministers.
That tells us how much our bilateral relationship has evolved even in the last 10 years.
This Sixth Conference takes place at an important time in our relationship's history.
It is the first opportunity for a cross-section of those actively engaged in the relationship from our two countries to come together and take stock of our partnership since Japan's new government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Hatoyama, took office.
This Conference is also taking place at a time when Japan is preparing to host APEC, a key regional body of importance to each of our countries, which Japan and Australia together helped to build.
The Australia-Japan relationship is a comprehensive strategic, security and economic partnership, underpinned by shared values, intersecting interests and common approaches to international security challenges.
Australia recognises the fundamental importance of this partnership.
Japan has been Australia's closest and most consistent friend in Asia for decades, and the relationship is central to Australia's foreign and trade policy priorities.
To give you an idea of the tempo of engagement in this relationship, we have seen some 25 Prime Ministerial, Ministerial and Parliamentary Secretary visits from Australia to Japan since the Australian Government took office.
I have visited Japan five times as Foreign Minister.
Australia and Japan see the world through similar lenses.
We are both robust Asia-Pacific democracies committed to protection of human rights, freedom and the rule of law.
We are both Alliance partners of the United States.
We are both active members of the United Nations committed to the preservation of peace, stability and prosperity of our region.
Earlier last year, Japan assumed its non-permanent position on the United Nations Security Council.
Australia has long supported Japan's elevation to permanent membership of a reformed Security Council.
Japan, of course, is also one of our most vital, vibrant and long-standing economic partners. Japan accounts for around a fifth of our global goods and services exports. Our economic relationship is founded on enduring economic complementarities.
Business has helped drive our strong people-to-people links. So too have tourism, education and sister-city ties.
We acknowledge that even the closest of partners sometimes have issues where they do not see eye to eye.
Our Governments strongly disagree on whaling, for example. But this is our only significant area of difference, and neither Australia nor Japan will allow this disagreement to get in the way of our long-term, long-standing and crucial relationship.
Last year, at the inaugural Crawford-Nishi Lecture hosted by the Australian National University here in Canberra, I outlined five major areas of cooperation in the relationship.
- working through the G20 to get the global economy moving;
- enhancing our economic relationship through the early conclusion of a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement;
- applying our growing defence partnership to tackling problems in regional and international security;
- advancing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament; and
- building on our collaboration in science, technology and innovation to find ways to combat climate change.
These areas of cooperation embrace some key global challenges of our times. They are also areas where Australia and Japan have complementary strengths and interests.
There has been no more recent, pressing policy challenge for both our countries than helping to generate a coordinated, practical response to the global economic crisis.
Australia and Japan have understood the need for swift action, both to mitigate the domestic effects of the crisis, and to successfully stabilise financial markets and stimulate the global economy.
Australia and Japan have both implemented economic stimulus packages that have bolstered production and helped mitigate the impact of the global economic downturn.
We have promoted coordinated action in the G20 and redoubled efforts to conclude the WTO Doha Round.
G20 Leaders in Pittsburgh last September agreed the G20 would be designated as the premier forum for global economic cooperation.
Australia has high ambitions for the G20 and our region's influence in it, particularly given half of the G20 countries are also members of APEC.
Australia and Japan will also continue to encourage APEC to reinforce, extend and implement the G20 agenda and to lead the region's recovery from the global economic crisis.
This year Japan's hosting of APEC is an opportunity to develop an agenda for future economic cooperation in APEC.
We will be working closely with Japan to progress regional economic integration in the Asia-Pacific and an organising principle for APEC that captures a shift in focus towards "behind-the-border" issues and structural reform.
We appreciate Japan lending its considerable weight to these issues.
The comprehensive strategic, security and economic partnership we enjoy with Japan is built on longstanding trade and investment ties.
These ties started in my own state of Western Australia with the minerals and petroleum resources industry, especially exports of iron ore, and then liquefied natural gas.
For over 40 years, Japan has been Australia's largest export market. Japanese investment, which played so vital a role in the development of many of Australia's export industries, remains a key element of our economic prosperity.
Trade statistics tell a compelling story about our economic relationship. Two-way trade has tripled over the past twenty years. The long-term trend remains encouraging.
Australia's goods trade surplus with Japan in 2009 was almost exactly the same size as our total import bill for goods from the United States, our second largest source of imports.
The size of the surplus has never been an issue between us. It means that Japan has in Australia a stable, reliable and friendly source of high quality products that it needs for its own industry.
These products power Japan's own trade surpluses with the rest of the world.
As strong as our economic relationship is, potential exists to take it to the next level.
That is why Australia is pursuing a Free Trade Agreement with Japan that will deliver commercially meaningful outcomes, particularly in services.
Ten rounds of FTA negotiations have taken place, with the last held in November 2009.
Negotiations have made good progress on some issues, but certain key market access issues remain difficult and need more work.
Just as bilateral trade has evolved, so too our defence and security ties have evolved beyond expectation.
This is a remarkable achievement.
The Australia-Japan Joint Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations, the so-called 2+2 meeting, is the only formal Foreign and Defence Strategic Dialogue that Australia has in Asia.
It's a product of the Japan-Australia Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, which was the first such document Japan has signed with any country other than the United States.
This dialogue is one of only three that Australia has world-wide, the others being with the United States and the United Kingdom.
The 2+2 dialogue reflects our shared perspectives of regional and global security, and our mutual respect and trust.
It also reflects the fact that we are both allies of the United States, whose continuing presence and engagement in the Asia-Pacific region we both regard as indispensable.
Strengthened bilateral cooperation between Australia and Japan in turn enhances our respective relationships with the United States, including through cooperation under the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue and the Security and Defence Cooperation Forum.
During the 2+2 meeting in December 2008, Australia and Japan signed a new Memorandum on Defence Cooperation.
We also committed ourselves to accelerate work in logistics cooperation with a view to further enhancing our military forces' capacity to work together.
Last December Prime Minister Rudd and Prime Minister Hatoyama agreed in Tokyo on an updated Action Plan to implement the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation.
We are working together to develop a proper legal framework to provide for the security of shared information.
We have begun negotiations on treaty-level agreements on defence mutual logistics support.
When completed, these agreements will greatly facilitate expanded cooperation on security and defence issues, making it easier to cooperate effectively in the delivery of disaster relief and to jointly conduct peace-keeping operations in third countries.
This cooperation and growing interoperability between our defence forces not only enhances our own national security, but that of the Asia-Pacific region.
One of the key pillars of the Government's foreign policy is our determination to enhance Australia's relations with the Asia-Pacific region. Central to this enhanced Australian regional engagement is our partnership with Japan.
We have common interests in maintaining a stable, prosperous and open Asia-Pacific. This mutuality of interest has been reflected in, for example, joint peacekeeping missions in East Timor and our shared approach to the international effort in Afghanistan.
Both our countries also have long and proud records of providing development assistance to different parts of the world, driven by the same conviction that this is work is both humanitarian as well as in our shared interests.
Japan makes a strong contribution to the development of Pacific Island countries, both as a major aid donor and as a regional partner with Australia in support of good governance.
Japan and Australia are working together to promote stability and economic development in the Pacific Island countries. Together, for example, we can do much to assist the nation building and development efforts of countries like Solomon Islands and East Timor.
Japan endorsed the Cairns Compact following the Pacific Islands Forum in 2009. We are discussing with Japan and other members of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) ways in which Japan can become more directly involved in supporting these efforts.
Twenty years ago, Australian and Japanese diplomacy was instrumental in the emergence of APEC. We remain partners in APEC's ongoing work and we look forward to Japan's chairmanship in 2010.
We have also collaborated in the emergence and the subsequent work of vital regional bodies such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit.
We look forward to working with Japan to take forward the Asia Pacific community initiative.
Just as Australia and Japan helped cement APEC's leading regional role, so too we can help to shape emerging regional architecture to ensure it meets the needs of the region.
Australia strongly supports international efforts to encourage North Korea to de-nuclearise. We work closely with Japan, the United States, the Republic of Korea and others in support of the Six Party talks.
Our close cooperation with Japan on resolving the North Korean nuclear problem will continue.
Australia and Japan have shared interests in a robust multilateral non-proliferation regime, and in a world free of nuclear weapons.
This was reflected in our decision to establish the independent International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, which is co-chaired by Ms Yoriko Kawaguchi, a former Japanese Environment Minister and Foreign Minister, and Mr Gareth Evans, a former Australian Foreign Minister.
The Commission is reinvigorating global efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to seek a recommitment to the ultimate goal of a nuclear weapons-free world.
Its final report - Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policy Makers - was released in December 2009.
Our shared interests are also reflected in the degree to which Australia and Japan are consulting closely in the lead up to the May 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
Australia is looking forward to working with the new Director General of the IAEA - Ambassador Yukiya Amano, who took up his four-year term in December 2009.
Australia and Japan are also active participants in the Proliferation Security Initiative, and both participate regularly in PSI exercises.
Australia participated in the sixth Asian Senior-Level Talks on Non-Proliferation (ASTOP), which were hosted by Japan in December 2009.
All of this activity takes place against the background of an extensive and diverse relationship between the Japanese and Australian people.
There are more than one hundred sister-city and sister state relationships between Australia and Japan.
In concrete terms, relationships like these lead to activities including:
- co-operation between Australian and Japanese life-savers on Japanese beaches;
- participation by Australian artists in Japanese rural regeneration projects;
- thousands of young Australian and Japanese exchange students living in homes in each other's country over the years;
- more than 125,000 Japanese visitors seeing the unique indigenous art contained in the "Emily" exhibition of 2008;
- Australian and Japanese musicians collaborating to produce a unique blend of jazz; and, of course,
- the links that have been built through tourism, including the boom in the numbers of Australian visitors to Hokkaido and Nagano to enjoy the world-class snow.
Much of this activity has flourished because of the extent to which Japanese is taught in Australian schools. Japanese has long been the number one foreign language studied in Australia, and there are 658 sister school relationships between Australia and Japan.
But though we have an excellent record in this regard, we need to do more.
Following the 2008 Australia-Japan Conference, my Japanese counterpart and I tasked a bilateral working group to prepare a report on ways to improve Japanese language education in Australia.
You will have the opportunity to consider that report tomorrow and I would like to thank the Australian and Japanese members of the working group, led by Tim Lester and Professor Masami Sekine, for their contributions.
I hope this report will provide a strong basis for further action to boost Asian literacy in Australia, building on the Government's National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program.
Our relationship is strong and it has many elements that bind it together. But that does not mean that we always agree on every issue. Sometimes even close friends have different views.
Whaling is one such issue for Australia and Japan. It is a matter on which we have a strong disagreement.
The Australian community is strongly opposed to whaling. The Australian Government has made clear its opposition to whaling. We believe that whaling should be stopped.
But I also want to make it clear that our opposition to whaling does not change our view of the importance of our overall relationship with Japan. We will not allow it to disturb the bilateral relationship.
In your general discussions tomorrow, I encourage you to reflect on the Australia-Japan relationship in reaching your recommendations on new directions, including with regard to:
- the importance of concluding a bilateral free trade agreement;
- the potential of our services relationship;
- opportunities for Australian and Japanese business to work together more closely in Asian markets;
- how we can expand and broader an already vibrant and diverse people-to-people relationship through language education, tourism and other activities;
- how Australia and Japan can use APEC in 2010 to shape the regional economy in the coming decades; and
- how we can strengthen our cooperation as the regional architecture continues to evolve.
The Australia-Japan relationship is one of tremendous significance and closeness. It is a relationship with an impressive history of cooperation across the range of bilateral areas.
More importantly, it is a relationship still with a future full of potential for Australia and Japan to cooperate in meeting the challenges we face in a rapidly changing world.
I've outlined tonight the many avenues through which we can continue to build on the vision of those who first created the bilateral relationship, and work not only for our mutual benefit but for our region and the international community.
We commit ourselves to even closer collaboration on regional and global issues and set ourselves new goals, confident in the knowledge that we have been more than able to rise to the challenge in the past.
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