JULIE BISHOP: I am delighted to have been able to host the eighth MIKTA Foreign Ministers' Meeting here in Sydney and at this historic barracks site. MIKTA - Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, and Australia - is a very diverse and very active group of Foreign Ministers, and I want to thank Retno, Byung-se, Ahmet, and Carlos for representing their countries at this meeting today. Our first Foreign Ministers' Meeting was held in September 2013, and since then MIKTA has engaged in a broad and diverse range of activities across many sectors of our economies, across regional and global issues, and I believe that we have handed out a list of the key events that have occurred over just the past 12 months, as Australia chaired MIKTA for that period.
One of the strengths of MIKTA is its informality and its agility. Our ministers and our representatives are able to meet quickly and in a timely fashion as issues may emerge. We also have meetings of our permanent representatives in the United Nations, Geneva, Vienna, whenever there are global issues that require a response from the MIKTA countries. And likewise, we have discussed over the last 24 hours issues pertaining to the conflict in Syria, Iraq, the Middle East; the humanitarian crises; peacekeeping issues. We have discussed trade, e-commerce, sustainability, a whole range of issues that affect our respective nations. And the other strength of MIKTA is the diversity. We are G20 economies. We are significant economies globally and in our region. We are also strategic players in our respective regions and globally, and we are able to share perspectives and insights and ideas in a very open and frank fashion.
Today we have agreed on a joint communique, which we have provided to you. And some of the highlights of what we have agreed today, which will further strengthen and build MIKTA as a significant group of significant countries, include a commitment to a humanitarian challenge that Australia will host whereby we will seek ideas - innovative, creative ideas - to deal with one of the most pressing challenges resulting from crises, whether it be a natural disaster or a humanitarian crisis caused by conflict – and that is educating those who are affected by the crisis, particularly young girls. So this is a challenge that the MIKTA countries are prepared to take on to come up with innovative ways to solve this problem.
We have also agreed to hold a meeting on the side of Cancun next year in relation to disaster risk reduction and resilience involving the public sector and the private sector. We had a very useful breakfast this morning with Australian business leaders from the insurance industry in particular on how countries can better adapt to responding to disasters, and the risk reduction and resilience are key components of this.
We have also decided to launch a MIKTA innovation group. We all have innovation hubs within our countries, and we will be selecting an innovation leader from each one of the MIKTA countries, and they will meet next year and identify young innovators in the MIKTA countries who can spend time living and working and interning in the MIKTA hub. So in this way, we will be cross-collaborating, with innovative, entrepreneurial ideas between our young people.
We have also decided to strengthen our MIKTA diplomatic community. Already on an informal basis we have been exchanging diplomats, trainees; some of the MIKTA diplomats have been attending the training academies in other MIKTA countries. We have put in a much more formal structure whereby each MIKTA country will offer opportunities for our young diplomats and other government officials to spend time in our training academies, in our embassies. And we noted that while all MIKTA countries have at least- well, some have about 135 embassies, others have about 80 or 100 embassies – we don't necessarily have a diplomatic presence in the same areas of the world, depending upon our priorities and national interests. So we have agreed that diplomats from MIKTA countries can spend time in MIKTA embassies in third countries, and in that way we will develop greater understanding of the challenges, the opportunities, and the responses of each of our countries to particular challenges and opportunities.
So in my time as Foreign Minister, I have seen MIKTA grow and strengthen as a group of countries with a range of common interests, a range of perspectives, and this is indeed a unique grouping that I believe will continue to make a significant contribution to global and regional affairs. Just to read the list of events and the range of activities we have undertaken gives you an idea of what this group has achieved, but also its potential as a group going forward.
So I want to thank my colleagues for coming to Australia, for some the first time, and I have been delighted to formally hand over the chairmanship of MIKTA for 2017 - 2018 to our friends from Turkey. So ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to answer a couple of questions on MIKTA. If you have any domestic issues you want to raise with me, I can do that separately. So any questions on MIKTA itself?
JOURNALIST: There seems to be quite a youth focus in many of your agreements. Was that purposeful?
JULIE BISHOP: Indeed. MIKTA, over the last three years, has addressed many issues. We put out statements; we have made submissions; we have formed working groups across a whole range of issues, and as MIKTA has grown in concept and reality, we are looking to the future. We want MIKTA to endure, and we recognise the challenges that are facing young people. Often, some of the global challenges impact disproportionately on young people, and there's a particular focus at this meeting on the impact on young girls. And so we've been able to embrace a number of initiatives that focus on young people, on young girls, for indeed, they are our future.
JOURNALIST: With the election of a new administration in the United States, are Foreign Ministers here concerned about a step back in international trade, and are you going to try to perhaps fill any gaps in future cooperation between these countries?
JULIE BISHOP: Well indeed. MIKTA is a group of like-minded countries when it comes to trade and commerce. We're all members of the G20, the WTO, and we all have economies that to a greater or lesser extent depend very much on our ability to export our goods and services. And so we will continue to advocate for free and open markets. A number of us have free trade agreements between our respective countries, and so as committed open economies to G20 principles and to the principles of free trade, we will continue to advocate. I think it's far too early to make any conclusions about what the US administration will do in relation to trade. There have been statements, but we'll wait until the administration has been fully in place before we comment further.
JOURNALIST: Could MIKTA become a trade alliance?
JULIE BISHOP: MIKTA is at this point at its most useful in multilateral fora when we are able to respond to a whole range of issues. Yes, we have a role to play in terms of trade and commerce, and indeed we all have embraced e-commerce in one form or another. We are all G20 economies, but our focus is not so limited. We have been particularly prioritising humanitarian issues in recent times. We have made representations at humanitarian conferences around the world. Our representatives in the UN meet regularly; not only in the UN, our ambassadors from MIKTA countries also meet in non-MIKTA locations. So we think that the strength of this group is that we can deal with any regional or global challenge and not be limited to any specific mandate. It's the diversity of our backgrounds and the unique perspectives that we each bring to challenges that makes us such a worthwhile community, and I'm delighted that our MIKTA diplomatic community initiative will really see us take this to another level.
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