23 November1995

Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador to China

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Gareth Evans, today announced the appointment of Mr Ric Smith as Australian Ambassador to the People's Republic of China, with non-resident accreditation to Mongolia.

Mr Smith will replace Mr Michael Lightowler, AM, who has been Ambassador since August 1991. Mr Lightowler has made a significant contribution to the promotion of Australia's bilateral and multilateral interests during a challenging period of change in China.

Senator Evans said Mr Smith's appointment reflects the high priority we give to our relationship with China.

China is an increasingly important player in world affairs, especially in the Asian region. Australia's bilateral relationship includes high level exchanges on a range of foreign policy and trade interests. China is our sixth largest trading partner, and there is extensive investment in both directions. Bilateral trade grew by 19 per cent in 1994 to reach a record $6.2 billion, and the trend has continued in 1995.

Australia shares with China a strong region-wide economic perspective, reflected in our membership of APEC, and an interest in the strategic affairs of the Asia Pacific region, which we pursue through the security-oriented ASEAN Regional Forum.

Mr Smith's accreditation to Mongolia reflects Australia's interest in expanding this relationship following political and economic reform in Mongolia.

Mr Smith, 51, is a senior career officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He has served in Australian missions in New Delhi, Tel Aviv and Manila, and as Consul-General in Honolulu. From 1989 to 1992, Mr Smith was First Assistant Secretary, Pacific, Africa and Middle East Division. In 1992, Mr Smith was appointed a Deputy Secretary of the Department. Since April 1994, he has served on secondment to the Department of Defence as Deputy Secretary.

Mr Smith is expected to take up his appointment in February 1996.