Today I announce the appointment of the Honourable Alexander Downer AC as Australia’s next High Commissioner to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Australia and the United Kingdom enjoy a close and cooperative relationship, underpinned by a shared history and values, aligned security interests and collaboration on international issues.

The UK is Australia's second largest source of foreign direct investment ($69.7 billion in 2011) and most important trading partner in Europe. In 2011, Australia's total two-way trade with the UK was valued at over $23 billion. The UK is Australia's second largest source of international visitors, with over 600,000 recorded each year.

Mr Downer has had a long and distinguished political career in Australia, and was until recently the United Nations Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus.

He joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1976 and served at the Australian Embassy in Belgium before moving into politics.Elected to the Federal Parliament in 1984 (Liberal member for Mayo in South Australia), he held this seat until his retirement from Parliament in July 2008. He served as Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, from 1996 to 2007, making him Australia’s longest-serving Foreign Minister.

Mr Downer was a Director, Bespoke Approach consultancy and visiting professor, School of History/Politics, University of Adelaide; held a professorship at Carnegie Mellon University and sits on a number of boards.

Mr Downer was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2013 and was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001.

Mr Downer holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Politics and Economics from Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne in the United Kingdom and a Doctorate of Civil Laws (honoris causa). He is expected to take up his appointmentin May 2014.

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