The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Media Release

23 November 2006

Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador to China 

I have today announced the appointment of Dr Geoff Raby as Australia’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.  Dr Raby is expected to take up his appointment in January 2007, succeeding Dr Alan Thomas, who has been Ambassador since March 2003.  Dr Raby will also have non-resident accreditation to Mongolia.

Our bilateral relationship with China is based on principles of mutual respect, substantial shared interests and mature discussion of differences, and is advanced through a range of bilateral dialogues encompassing military to military, regional security, human rights, consular issues and foreign policy. 

The bilateral relationship is underscored by an active program of high level visits in both directions.  Prime Minister Howard has been a regular visitor to China, while China’s top three leaders, President Hu Jintao, National People’s Congress Chairman Wu Bangguo and premier Wen Jiabao have all visited Australia in recent years.  Australia also enjoys strong cultural, social and educational ties with China. Over 280,000 Chinese tourists visited Australia last year, and there are currently over 60,000 Chinese students studying in Australia. 

Bilateral trade and economic ties continue to grow strongly.  China is now Australia’s second-largest trading partner, with annual two-way trade totalling about $45.4 billion.  In April 2006, twelve government-to-government agreements and MOU’s were signed covering cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear technology, mutual legal assistance, coal mine safety, education and training, agricultural technical cooperation, and agricultural market access.  The first shipment of Australian LNG arrived in Guangzhou in June 2006 and the sixth round of negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement was held in Beijing in September.  Australia also continues to be an important development assistance donor to China, focusing on building institutional linkages, working together in the region, and building capacity in the areas of governance, the environment and health. 

China is an increasingly influential player in regional and international affairs. China’s hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games and the 2010 International Exposition in Shanghai will further contribute to its growing international profile.  Australia and China share interests in the stability and economic development of the region, and in multilateral cooperation through groups such as Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, the World Trade Organisation, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the East Asia Summit.

Dr Raby was appointed Deputy Secretary in November 2002.  His current responsibilities include lead negotiator on WTO matters, China FTA Taskforce and bilateral relations with North Asia.  Previous positions include APEC Ambassador, First Assistant Secretary International Organisations and Legal Division, and First Assistant Secretary Trade Negotiations Division.

Overseas, Dr Raby has served as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organisation, Geneva and on two occasions in Beijing as Counsellor (Economic) and First Secretary (Economic). He has also worked in the OECD Secretariat in Paris.

Dr Raby has BEc (Hons), MEc and PhD degrees.

Media Inquiries: Mr Downer's office 02 6277 7500 - Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555

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