MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
8 November 1999
Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador to China
I have today announced the appointment of Mr David Irvine as Australia's Ambassador to the People's Republic of China, with non-resident accreditation to Mongolia. Mr Irvine will replace Mr Richard Smith AO, who has been Ambassador since March 1996.
Australia recognises China's importance in regional and international affairs. The relationship with China is one of our four key bilateral relationships. Earlier this year Australia hosted an historic visit by President Jiang Zemin, the first ever by a Chinese head of state. Australia and China share strong interests in the stability and economic dynamism of the region, as well as in important multilateral issues such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
The bilateral relationship continues to mature and encompasses a wide range of interests. Linkages include: defence exchanges and ships' visits; regular military to military discussions; an annual human rights dialogue; consular consultations; regular foreign policy dialogue; social security exchanges; dialogue on regional security issues; an upgraded and expanded Joint Ministerial Economic Commission; cooperation on the repatriation of illegal boat people; and a recent notable expansion of links in the legal and judicial areas.
Cultural, legal, scientific and educational exchanges are also increasing people-to-people contacts. Implementation of China's designation of Australia as an approved tourist destination will lead to increased numbers of Chinese tourists visiting Australia.
Australia is the fifth largest bilateral aid donor to China. Development assistance is targeted at needy areas of rural China and at supporting Chinese Government reforms in the public and financial sectors.
Bilateral trade and economic ties continue to expand, with two-way trade for financial year 1998-99 worth more than $10 billion. Two way investment links are also substantial, China is Australia's fifth largest trading partner, and Australia is China's eleventh largest bilateral trading partner. Increasingly, traditional Australian exports of primary products are diversifying into new areas such as manufactures, telecommunications equipment, and financial, legal, health, tourism and education services. Strong potential for growth exists in agribusiness and sales of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Australia enjoys warm relations with Mongolia, and is assisting Mongolia in its transition to a market economy through capacity building and development assistance projects administered by AusAID.
Mr Irvine, a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, joined the Department in 1970. He has had postings in Rome (1970-73), Jakarta (1976-79) and (1988-90), Beijing (1982-86) and most recently as High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea (1996-99). Mr Irvine has also held several senior management and policy positions in the Department, including management of Australia's relations with the major markets of South, North and East Asia, as well as Indochina.
Mr Irvine has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the University of Western Australia. He was born in Perth in 1947 and is married with two daughters.
He is expected to take up his appointment in February 2000.
Ministerial - Innes Willox (02) 6277 7500
Departmental - Matt Francis (02) 6261 1555
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