FA188 - 17 December 2002
Diplomatic appointment: Ambassador to China
I have today announced the appointment of Dr Alan Thomas as Australian
Ambassador to the People's Republic of China.
Dr Thomas is expected to take up his appointment in March 2003,
replacing Mr David Irvine, who has been Ambassador since March 2000.
Bilateral ties between Australia and China have reached new heights
this year, the 30th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. The
relationship is based on principles of mutual respect, substantial
shared interests and mature discussion of differences. A key element
of this approach is our range of bilateral dialogues encompassing
military to military, regional security, human rights, consular issues
and foreign policy.
Australia also enjoys strong cultural, social and educational ties
with China. People-to-people contacts are vital to the relationship. The
Prime Minister visited China this year and I also visited Shanghai
in November for the International Arts Festival's 'Celebrate Australia
2002'. China reciprocated with visits by Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan
in March and by National People's Congress Chairman Li Peng in September. Over
120,000 Chinese tourists visited Australia during the year and there
are currently about 25,000 Chinese students studying in Australia.
Bilateral trade and economic ties continue to expand. China is
now Australia's third-largest merchandise trading partner, with annual
two-way trade totalling about $20 billion. This year, an Australian
consortium won a $25 billion contract to supply LNG to Guangdong
Province - the beginning of a long-term strategic partnership in
energy. Australia is working on a Framework Agreement with China
to enhance the economic and trade relationship. Australia is an important
aid donor to China, focusing on development assistance, poverty alleviation,
public sector reforms and financial development.
Australia recognises China's importance in regional and international
affairs. Australia and China share interests in the stability and
economic dynamism of the region, and in multilateral cooperation
through groups such as Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC),
World Trade Organisation (WTO) and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
Dr Thomas is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade and is currently Deputy Secretary. Other positions
he has held include Head of Corporate Management Division (1998-00),
Head of North Asia Division (1997-98) and Head of Staffing Branch
(1995-97). He also served as Head of the Americas and Defence Branch
in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and was a ministerial
adviser in the early 1980s.
Overseas, Dr Thomas served as Ambassador to Brazil (1992-95) and
had postings in Tokyo (1986-89) and Singapore (1979-83).
Educated at the University of Western Australia and the Australian
National University, Dr Thomas holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with
First Class Honours, and a PhD in History. He is a Board Member
of the Australia China Council, the Australia Japan Foundation, the
Australia Korea Foundation, the Asia Australia Institute and the
Australian Institute of International Affairs. Dr Thomas is married
with three children.
Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) +61 02 6277 7500 / Lyndall
Sachs (Departmental) 02 6261 1555
Tuesday, 07-Jan-2014 10:28:01 EST