2013 Japan update

Speech, E&OE, (check against delivery)

Australian National University, Canberra

5 November 2013

Thank you very much for your kind introduction. It's my great pleasure to join you here this evening.

I acknowledge the Vice Chancellor of the Australian National University, Professor Ian Young and I am so pleased that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, through the Australia-Japan Foundation, is supporting this significant conference on our relationship.

I also acknowledge Murray McLean AO, Australia's immediate past Ambassador to Japan, and the Chair of the Foundation.

Japan's Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Yoshitaka Akimoto, the Honourable Yuriko Koike, and the very many distinguished guests from Japan who are with us this evening.

First I want to congratulate Japan for winning the bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

You know I have very vivid memories as a little girl of the 1964, oh yes and I was around then, of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. I was so struck by the opening ceremony as the Japanese team marched out in red jackets and the women in white skirts and the men in white trousers. It looked fantastic. I have never forgotten that scene so I have no doubt Tokyo will do Japan proud in 2020.

In my first two months as Foreign Minister, Japan has been front and centre of my thinking about Australia's place in the region, and how we work with our friends and neighbours to increase prosperity and security in Australia, in the region and around the world.

Indeed, I have already had the pleasure of meeting my Japanese counterpart, Foreign Minister Kishida, a number of times. At one point it was once a week and we thought that that was a good batting average but I was not sure whether we would be able to maintain it.

First at the UN General Assembly in New York – in both a bilateral meeting and co-chairing the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Initiative – and again at APEC and most recently during my visit to Tokyo in October. And I have informed Minister Kishida that I hope to be at the NPDI, the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Initiative meeting in Hiroshima in April in 2014.

These meetings demonstrate the very high regard Australia and Japan have for each other, not only as economic and strategic partners, but also as friends with shared values.

My decision to visit Japan so early in my term as Foreign Minister was a deliberate one, to reaffirm to our friends in Japan the Government's commitment to the relationship as a foreign policy priority.

The Crawford School – not least through the decades-long efforts of Professor Peter Drysdale – has always understood the importance of Japan to Australia.

But it is, I think, a relationship that has not had sufficient recognition in recent years, as Australia and much of the rest of the world shifted focus to China and the extraordinary size and speed of its growth.

Of course, China's rise must be and will be embraced – it is in every nation's interest for China to become, even more than it is today, an engaged global participant and positive force for good.

However, Australia's friendship with a rising China does not come at the expense of close and longstanding friendships.

And so my visit to Japan was about reaffirming Japan's place at the forefront of Australia's regional engagement.

I was pleased to meet a range of senior ministers, as well as Prime Minister Abe, who indicated he shares our Government's desire for closer co-operation between our two countries.

And I'm confident that through Prime Minister Abbott's meeting with Prime Minister Abe at the East Asia Summit; my meetings with the Ministers for Defence; the Economy and TPP; and Education; and Minister Andrew Robb, our Trade Minister's meetings will breathe new life into those aspects of our bilateral relationship.

Professor Young mentioned Australia's New Colombo Plan. Education, in particular, offers enormous scope for our two countries to become even closer – not just economically, but socially, by forging friendships between our young people.

It's an area that has, in my view, been underdone, and one I intend to champion as Foreign Minister. And indeed as a former Education Minister I believe there is so much we can achieve.

I was delighted that during my visit to Tokyo that Japan agreed to sign on as a pilot country for Australia's New Colombo Plan.

This is really significant.

Despite our long and close relationship, a diminishing number of young Australians are learning to speak Japanese.

As a result, the deep understanding of the country that so often comes with learning its language is lacking.

So this university crowd here, the premise of the New Colombo Plan is probably well understood.

What we're planning to do is send young Australians to study at universities in the region and undertake internships in the region, to foster stronger people-to-people and institutional links and develop the knowledge and skills that will be in demand in the decades ahead.

We want to see a generation of young Australians emerge who are Asia-literate.

It's a reversal of the original Colombo Plan that brought so many of the best and brightest from young people around the region to study in Australia from the 1950s to the 1980s.

And I think it's fair to say that when it comes to Japan, the timing of the New Colombo Plan could not be better.

Our desire to send more young Australians abroad dovetails with Prime Minister Abe's aim to double the number of foreign students studying in Japan by 2020.

So it's my hope that Australian students will play a part in helping Japan achieve that goal, and that education will soon join our close economic and political ties at the very heart of the Japan relationship.

The opening up of Japanese universities to foreign students is another sign that Japan is seeking to play a more active and deeper role internationally. Indeed Prime Minister Abe spoke with affection of the relationship his school had with a Western Australian high school. So we had a very positive conversation about the benefit of engaging young students.

Japan's positive and constructive contribution to the global community for nearly 70 years is undeniable.

As a lynchpin of the US alliance network, Japan has helped underwrite the security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan is the second-largest contributor to the United Nations – a point that I think carries some weight in assessing Japan's current security policies.

It has been a vocal advocate – often in partnership with Australia – for global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

The civilians and armed forces of Japan make a significant contribution to international peace and security missions.

That is why we think it is time for Japan to assume a place at the global security table, with a 'normal' defence posture.

That's a message I conveyed to Defence Minister Onodera in Tokyo.

The Australian Defence Force has worked closely with Japan in Iraq, Timor-Leste, Pakistan, Cambodia and, today, in South Sudan.

Our strategic dialogue and joint exercises, including trilaterally with the United States, are already operating at a high level – but there's room to do more together.

Australia is one of a handful of countries to hold annual 2+2 talks with Japan, bringing together the Foreign and Defence ministers from both countries.

Our Defence Minister, Senator David Johnston and I look forward to participating in the fifth round of 2+2 talks next year.

I must tell you Minister Johnston is a regular visitor to Japan. He first went there as a student, but more recently he's become a very keen skier. And I think he's been seen on the slopes at Niseko more than once, but I'll have to keep his mind focussed on the 2+2.

We do want to work with Japan as it plays a more significant role in the security of the region and the world, as a nation of its stature – and a beacon of democracy in the region – surely should.

Thankfully for Australia, the normalisation of our economic and trade relationship wasn't 70 years in the making.

It's one of the remarkable stories of our shared history that barely a decade after the end of the War in the Pacific, Japan and Australia signed a ground-breaking commerce agreement.

That agreement – signed by Prime Minister Robert Menzies and Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, the grandfather of Prime Minister Abe – paved the way for the mutually beneficial economic and trade relationship we enjoy today.

It most certainly enabled Japan's rapid post-war industrialisation through the import of Australian minerals and energy.

The history of trade and investment between Australia and Japan tells the story of the modern Australian economy -- outward looking and regionally engaged.

For virtually all of the past forty years, Japan has been Australia's biggest trading partner – and still today remains second only to China.

Japan is also by far our largest source of foreign direct investment from Asia, and our third-largest overall – behind only the United States and the United Kingdom.

Japanese investment in Australia has been fundamental to the development of some of Australia's most important industries. It is also worth remembering that during the global downturn in 2008, Japanese investment in Australia continued to increase.

Indeed, it's Japanese investment that has allowed Australia's energy industry – particularly in my home state of Western Australia – to capitalise on the many opportunities being offered by Asia's growth.

I met with Mr Watanabe today and we spoke at length about the significant role of JBIC in facilitating Japanese investment in Australia including the massive Inpex energy project in Darwin and the Roy Hill mine in Western Australia and many more

Nevertheless, like many long-time relationships, our economic relationship with Japan needs a fresh spark.

For six years, negotiators from both sides have been digging through the detail of a potential free trade agreement.

But I think six years is long enough. It's time to seal the deal.

My aim – and it's one strongly shared by both the Prime Minister, and Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb – is to conclude this Free Trade Agreement within 12 months.

It's an ambitious target and one that will require hard work and good will from both sides.

I believe it's in both our nations' interests to get the job done.

In coming to office, I've described my approach to foreign affairs and trade as one that puts economic diplomacy first.

Australia puts the highest priority on global economic reform and trade liberalisation as the best way to secure jobs and economic growth.

For me, Australia's prosperity and quality of life are underpinned by our robust economy – by our long drive to improve our competitiveness.

And make ourselves an integral part of the region and global economy.

I've made it clear that in government I expect our diplomats and our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade staff to put economic diplomacy at the heart of their statecraft.

To make sure they are always thinking about how to maximise Australia's economic benefit - to build and deepen business links, to support economic reform, and trade liberalisation, to encourage foreign investment.

And the Australia-Japan Free Trade Agreement will be an important step down that road.

It will help both our economies become more robust, and strengthen our private sector.

We all know that free trade has transformed the world economy.

A free trade agreement between Australia and Japan can be equally transformative – bringing new life to our long and deep economic relationship.

Not just for the symbolism of having an agreement, but to open up new, commercially meaningful, opportunities.

New markets in business, agriculture, and services that will help grow both of our national economies and provide jobs and better futures for our people.

Equally, our government welcomes Japan's decision to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks – with 11 other nations including the United States and Australia.

Japan is an integral part of the global economy, not least through its export flows of manufactured goods to the region and the world.

It's also an important export destination for Australian energy and agriculture.

So Japan's participation in the TPP will only strengthen that agreement.

Indeed, if the TPP can be finalised, it will provide new impetus to stalled efforts to liberalise global trade through the WTO. The Doha Round has more than stalled; I guess it's on life support.

But other countries are not standing still in building networks of bilateral and regional Free Trade Agreements and Australia and Japan need to be part of that effort.

But it's not just through trade that Japan is seeking to kick-start its economy.

Such is Prime Minister's Abe's commitment to re-energising his country's economy that he's inspired an eponymous buzzword - "Abenomics", however, it's not just a slogan.

It is a serious effort to shake the Japanese economy out of a two-decade long torpor– and that can only be a good thing for Australia, the region and the global economy.

And I'm pleased to hear that the three arrows of monetary policy, fiscal policy and reforms including infrastructure and other stimulus has been joined by a fourth, the Tokyo Olympics.

Australia and Japan will continue to work together in multilateral forums to advance both our interests.

Not least in the G20 as Australia prepares to take on the chairmanship for the next 12 months.

This is a unique opportunity to exert influence for the greater good of both our countries and the wider world.

The G20's success so far shows what can be achieved when nations work together to improve regional and global institutions.

Our priority for the year ahead is to lift economic growth and create jobs.

To deliver on this goal, we plan to organise our chairmanship around three themes: empowering the private sector to boost economic growth and jobs, building resilience in the global economy and making the G20 work better as the driver of global economic cooperation.

With few exceptions, Japan's goals are Australia's goals.

We both want growing economies with job opportunities, prosperity and peace for our people.

We share an interest in security and stability in the region as global economic power shifts to the Indo-Pacific.

We both champion our shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law around the world.

We have a mutual commitment to nuclear non-proliferation.

In particular, we both want to see a de-nuclearised North Korea and an end to North Korea's threats to the security of South Korea, and our shared region.

We want our young people to embrace all the opportunities this new, globalised world presents.

We've grown together in the past.

We have lent a hand to one another in times of trouble, including the tragic Great Eastern Japan earthquake and tsunami.

And we will grow together in the future.

That's the story of Australia and Japan.

It's never been a one-way street.

The warm welcome I received on my recent visit is a testament to that.

Japan has been vital to Australia's interests in Asia for more than a century.

We've shared a genuine understanding and respectful partnership through times of extraordinary change – especially through the late 20th Century.

As the world continues to change, perhaps more quickly than ever before, those shared experiences and interests – that genuine friendship we have – will be the thread that weaves the fabric of our relationship into the future and I truly believe that the best days of the Australia-Japan relationship lie ahead.

Media enquiries