The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
 FORMER MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, AUSTRALIA

Joint Media Release

30 December 2002

Council for Australian-Arab Relations

Joint media release from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade Mark Vaile

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer and the Minister for Trade Mark Vaile today announced that the Government would establish a Council for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR) to strengthen ties and understanding between Australia and Arab countries.

Council members will be drawn from business, Government and the academic community and hold their first meeting in early 2003.

The Council will focus primarily on commercial and people-to-people links. It will also work to strengthen academic and educational ties and to broaden awareness of each other's history, politics, culture, music and science and technology.

The decision to establish the Council follows key recommendations by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade which last year published a review of Australia's relations with the Middle East region.

The Ministers said the Council's establishment was now even more appropriate given the significant developments over the past year.

Mr Downer said Australians had a range of significant interests in the Middle East and North Africa. He said the new Council would help build bridges between Australia and Arab countries and confirm that Australia had great respect and admiration for Islam, highly valued its own Muslim communities and looked forward to closer links with Arab countries.

Mr Vaile said the Council would build on the recent spectacular growth in Australia's trade with the Middle East. Total merchandise exports grew by almost 40 per cent in 2001. This followed average annual growth in our exports to the Middle East of 12.7 per cent between 1996 and 1999.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Mr Downer's office) +61 02 6277 7500 / Andrew Ethell (Mr Vaile's office) 02 6277 7420



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