Joint Media Conference with Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan

Subjects: Trilateral Security Dialogue, Trans Pacific Partnership, New Colombo Plan, Free Trade Agreement and Australia-Japan relations.

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

15 October 2013

FUMIO KISHIDA: Well today with the Honourable Ms Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister of Australia, we were able to have a Japan-Australia Foreign Ministers' meeting.

I me the Foreign Minister right after her assignment and appointment on the occasion of the UN General Assembly and just the other day in Bali, Indonesia, together with Secretary Kerry of the United States we had a TSD meeting – Trilateral Strategic Dialogue. So over a short span of time we were able to have a close exchange of views. And also last week in Brunei, Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister Abbott also met each other and had a Japan-Australia Summit meeting. So a close exchange of views has already been held at the leaders' level as well.

We are very pleased that early on in her appointment, Ms Bishop is here visiting us in Japan and we were able to have a Foreign Ministers' Meeting. It represents the Australian emphasis on the relationship with Japan. We are very pleased with it. Japan and Australia are strategic partners sharing basic values and strategic interests. And we both have as a mutual ally the United States.

At our meeting today we had a discussion on the furtherance of strengthening the bilateral relationship in the areas of security, the economy and people-to-people exchange.

We are going to have a working dinner right after this and we are planning to also discuss regional issues as well as global challenges. Also, at our meeting we have just had, Foreign Minister Bishop explained to us the New Colombo Plan, which is an Australian youth exchange program. I responded by saying that the exchange of youth, who are the bearers of the future, is very important for the sustainable development of our bilateral relationship. The Abbott administration is a proponent of a New Colombo Plan and we highly regard the fact that Japan has been chosen as one of the countries to implement this program first and I said that we are willing to cooperate as much as possible on the implementation of the program led by Foreign Minister Bishop.

As we see around our situation, the regional security environment is getting more severe and Australia is our strategic partner. We are more than willing to continue to have a close relationship and cooperation on various different levels, inclusive of the foreign minister level, and we hope that we can together positively contribute to regional stability and peace.

That's it from me, thank you very much.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you Minister Kishida for your warm welcome to me on my first official visit to Japan since I took on the role as Foreign Minister just four weeks ago. Australia's election was held on the 7th of September and that was also the day that it was announced that Tokyo would host the 2020 summer Olympics and so it was an auspicious day for us both and I do congratulate you on winning the rights to host the Olympics, which I'm sure Japan will do brilliantly.

I had the honour of meeting Prime Minister Abe shortly before our meeting today, and I was able to reconfirm the statements that Prime Minister Abbott made to Prime Minister Abe just last week, that Japan is Australia's best friend in Asia and we are the closest of economic and strategic partners. On the economic front, Minister Kishida and I discussed just a short while ago that we have a long history of economic and trading and investment relationships. Particularly, Japan has been our largest trading partner for decades and is now our second-largest trading partner. Japan is also our third-largest source of capital after the United States and the United Kingdom and by far and away the largest investor in Australia from Asia. And we hope that our economic relationship can be taken to a new level through the conclusion of a bilateral trade agreement between Australia and Japan.

On the security front, the Australian government welcomes the direction that the Abe Government has taken in terms of having a more normal defence posture and being able to take a constructive role in regional and global security. And I look forward to further discussion with Minister Kishida and between our Defence Ministers at our upcoming 2+2 meeting.

On our people-to-people links, Minister Kishida and I discussed the Australian Government's new initiative that we have called the New Colombo Plan. It is, in many ways, complementary to the Abe Government's focus on internationalising higher education. As japan seeks to bring more foreign students to this country, Australia is seeking to provide an opportunity for Australian undergraduates to study in our region. In this way, we hope that there'll be generations of young Australians who have had the opportunity to live and study and work in countries in our region come back to Australia with new perspectives, new ideas, new insights, and hopefully long-lasting connections and relationships with their host country. I am delighted that Minister Kishida has confirmed that Japan has accepted our invitation to take part in a pilot program for the New Colombo Plan, which we hope to commence in 2014. And we look forward to working with the Japanese Government, at the officials' level and at the Ministerial level, to ensure that the New Colombo Plan is able to get underway and that we see many more Australian students taking the opportunity to study in Japan. We believe that the future of the Australia-Japan relationship will be in good hands as young Japanese and young Australian students take the opportunity to live and study in our respective countries.

It is our view that the best days of the Australia-Japan relationship lie ahead and I look forward to working closely with Minister Kishida on the range of common interests that our countries share.

Thank you.

QUESTION: I have a question for Minister Bishop. Just the other day in Bali, Indonesia, a series of TPP-related negotiations and meetings were held and the aim is to conclude the agreement by the end of this year and the affirmation that was made. Australia vis a vis Japan is saying that Japan should open up a full market, particularly agriculture product market, for Australia. Dairy products and beef are the agricultural products coming from Australia but the Japanese people seem to be cautious about open up that market to you. And about the tariff liberalisation rate, a target has been indicated to Japan. What is your reaction to that and what are you going to request for Japan to do in this negotiation?

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you for your question. The Australian Government supports the direction that the Abe Government has taken in relation to economic growth and job opportunities. That includes structural reform but also trade liberalisation. And we welcome the fact that Prime Minister Abe has announced that Japan will participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and that we can revitalise our negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement between Australia and Japan.

We recognise that there are sensitivities on both sides but we also recognise the great economic benefits that will come to both countries if we take part in the TPP and if we are able to conclude a bilateral agreement.

We are trusted trading partners. We are friends. And we believe that negotiations in good faith will lead to a beneficial outcome for both countries. We understand that there are interests in Japan, just as there are interests in Australia that are sensitive to free trade negotiations. In Japan, the sensitivities centre around agriculture; in Australia, around motor vehicles, around investment. But we believe that we must be ambitious, pragmatic, and show the political will to conclude these agreements for they are in the interests of both countries for economic growth, for job opportunities, for particularly our young people. That is why I believe it will be possible for us to conclude both the TPP negotiations and the bilateral trade negotiations for the benefit of our countries.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up question for Minister Kishida. At this meeting today, about the TPP negotiations, how did you describe Japan's participation.

FUMIO KISHIDA: Thank you for your question. At our meeting today, we actually didn't have an in-depth discussion on the TPP. But [indistinct] together with Foreign Minister Bishop, we have had many occasions in the past to exchange views and we've been saying that we agree to strengthen further the Japan-Australia economic relationship. And we will work together cooperatively to lay down economic rules for this vision. We will make efforts on this and we agree to take the lead mutually on this. So with regard to the TPP, just the other day at the leaders' meeting and summit, it was agreed that it's important to aim at concluding the agreement from the comprehensive and balanced point of view to make it a successful regional arrangement and agreement. So on that note we would like to continue working closely with Australia and Japan will do its part [indistinct] and as you heard from Foreign Minister Bishop, there is a TPP as well as a bilateral [FTA] whose negotiations [indistinct] and we would like to welcome both fronts at the same time.

QUESTION: I'd like to ask again about the bilateral trade talks. Prime Minister Abbott said recently that he'd like to conclude the agreement with Japan within a year. Since negotiations have been going on since 2007, how feasible is this and how would you describe the state of play at the current moment. And that's a question for both ministers, please.

JULIE BISHOP: I'll go first. The negotiations commenced seven years ago, the last time my party was in government under Prime Minister Howard. And indeed with then-Prime Minister Abe. So we think it most fitting that the bilateral trade agreement be concluded, again, under Prime Minister Abe. And we hope that it can be done within 12 months. The reason we are positive about such an outcome and feeling confident that this can be achieved is because of Prime Minister Abe's commitment to further trade liberalisation as a way of growing the Japanese economy and providing job opportunities for the Japanese people. We believe our economies are complementary and that there are many ways that a bilateral agreement between Australia and Japan will enhance an already-strong economic and trade relationship. So given that there have been seven years of negotiation, given that both our prime ministers are enthusiastic about an agreement between Australia and Japan, we feel confident that it can be concluded.

And likewise, the commitment to the TPP by both our countries is an opportunity for us to do more to boost the flagging momentum in global trade discussions. And we hope that the TPP will boost the commitment more generally to global trade liberalisation.

FUMIO KISHIDA: So let me now try to answer your question – I thank you for your question. As we heard from Foreign Minister Bishop, as for the bilateral [FTA] during the first Abe Government seven years ago, it was indeed the case that negotiations started. Seven years have passed and this time around under the new Abe Government, once again we are to deal with this challenge. And Prime Minister Abe has a strong willingness to conclude a bilateral FTA – that's his position.

This time around, the last negotiation round was held in June, wasn't it? At that meeting I think the distance between our two countries had been narrowed quite significantly – that's how I understand the situation. So I hope this will be the case, and Japan will continue to make efforts in the meantime in the hope that good results will be made for us bilaterally.

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