Joint Media release
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Joint Media Release

Thursday, 20 August 2003

Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Alexander Downer MP and Minister for Trade, The Hon Mark Vaile MP

Launch Of Council For Australian-Arab Relations

We are pleased to launch the Council for Australian-Arab Relations at a ceremony this evening (20 August) at Parliament House, Canberra. 

This exciting new initiative will promote greater understanding and acceptance of each other’s cultures, values, beliefs and diversity.  It will focus on commercial and people-to-people links and will also work to strengthen academic and educational ties. All this will broaden awareness of each other’s history, politics, culture, and science and technology.

The Arab community is an increasingly important part of Australian society.  The establishment of the Council underscores the high value that the Government attaches to the Arab community. It also demonstrates the Government’s commitment to achieving a deeper understanding of Australia in the Arab world, as well as fostering a greater understanding in Australia of the Arab world.

Australians have growing range of interests in the Middle East and North Africa and increasingly travel to the region.  The Council will encourage closer ties with Arab countries and help us build on the impressive growth in Australia’s trade with the Middle East.  Our merchandise exports in 2002-03 were 40 per cent above their level in 1998-99 and outperformed total Australian merchandise exports over that period. 

Australia’s services trade and investment links with the region have also flourished.  The Council will play a key role in meeting the challenge of going beyond the transactional trade that has characterised our commercial links in the past to build more comprehensive economic partnerships with an increasing emphasis on two-way investment and trade in services.

The Council has already been active in sponsoring a visit to Baghdad earlier this year by archaeologist Dr Dan Potts of Sydney University to help restore the records of the Iraq Museum.  It has also sponsored visits to Australia by an eminent Saudi businessman to promote Australia’s commercial interests in the region and by a correspondent of the highly-regarded, Saudi-owned newspaper Al Hayat, to promote a deeper understanding of Australia in the Arab world.

Contacts:  Chris Kenny (Downer's office) (02) 6277 7500, Matthew Doman (Vaile’s office)  (02) 6277 7420

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