Address to MIKTA outreach event

  • Speech, E&OE

I'm delighted to see the MIKTA Ambassadors here this morning in the front row and I also acknowledge the presence of other Ambassadors and members of our diplomatic network here and Vice Chancellor Ian Young, thank you so much for hosting the seminar here at ANU.

Nearly two years ago, five countries came together through a meeting of their foreign ministers in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York to form a new partnership – at first blush, a somewhat unlikely grouping – MIKTA – made up of Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia.

We are nations of influence in our respective geographic regions. While each nation has different, although complementary, priorities it is evident that MIKTA brings greater weight together – as a group - than what could be achieved by acting alone. For example, the combined GDP of MIKTA countries is over $5.8 trillion, about eight per cent of the world's economy and this share is expected to grow.

Our combined population is around 530 million, about eight per cent of the world's population. We are all members of the United Nations, G20, World Trade Organisation and Global Partnership for Development Cooperation. We are like-minded on many global issues, and we are all active contributors on the global stage.

Yet, there is a diverse range of geographic, thematic and religious groupings in which three or more of the MIKTA countries are also prominent contributors – which we find to be one of the group's great strengths.

For Australia, MIKTA marks a significant addition to the type and composition of international partnerships we have traditionally prioritised.

The complexities of the modern world demand Australia develop new and innovative ways of pursuing our interests. Countries now have to give priority to solving issues that transcend borders and regions we must work with others who share similar foreign policy priorities.

This is why Australia is part of MIKTA – a new partnership that has potential to be a significant positive force for good.

MIKTA members are marked by our diversity but we share characteristics that make us practical partners. We have a common interest in promoting an open, free, rules-based international order. We are all democracies. We believe in open trade and economic development.

Our economies are the 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th largest in the world and growing at a faster rate than many in the top 10. Goldman Sachs has predicted Mexico may well become the 5th largest economy by 2050, and PwC assesses that on current growth rates Indonesia will be the 7th largest economy by 2030, and 4th by 2050; Turkey is also likely to be in the top ten. Australia and Korea aspire to be so.

So MIKTA provides a forum to exchange views and canvass possible solutions to common challenges.It is a forum that hopes to shape international opinion in ways that benefit us all.

Last month in Seoul, my fellow MIKTA foreign ministers and I discussed the most serious challenges we are facing. The joint communique issued after the meeting reveals the range of issues discussed and agreed upon – including counter terrorism.

No country is immune from the scourge of terrorism and the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters. Terrorism is now more global, more complex and more dangerous than ever. Fuelled by hate, terrorist organisations such as Da'esh are attracting thousands of citizens from across the globe to join these murderous causes.

During the MIKTA Foreign Ministers Meeting, we learned from Korean authorities that a South Korean teenager had attempted to enter Syria with the intention of joining Da'esh. We shared experiences, ideas and information. I detailed how Australia faces this same real threat – the Australian Government has cancelled around 120 Australian passports to prevent Australian citizens traveling to Syria and Iraq to become foreign terrorist fighters in that conflict.

Our joint communique explicitly expressed our agreement to stand together against the common threat of terrorism and recognised the importance of governments and communities, strengthening social cohesion to meet the challenge of violent extremism. We highlighted the importance of preventing and addressing the issue of foreign terrorist fighters.

Over the past two years MIKTA have issued a number of joint press releases on issues as diverse as Ebola, North Korea's nuclear program, the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17, global health, global governance, even on International Women's Day.

Our UN ambassadors in New York and Geneva meet regularly to discuss the contribution that MIKTA can make to strengthening global governance.

MIKTA members are also concerned about the global economy. Australia wants to promote global prosperity through openness to trade and helping drive business growth and we find that MIKTA can be utilised as a powerful advocate for the benefits of liberalised trade and investment.

We have strong trade, investment and tourism linkages between the MIKTA members already and there is plenty of opportunity to expand this. Last year alone, other MIKTA countries, other than Australia (so that makes it MIKT!) invested around $25 billion in Australia.

Visitors from MIKTA countries spent approximately 5.8 per cent of the total expenditure of overseas visitors in Australia. Of Australians travelling overseas for short term visits, nearly 13 per cent travelled to Mexico, Indonesia, Korea and Turkey.

I'm also working with my MIKTA colleagues to test whether our development cooperation is meeting the contemporary challenges the world faces. I am committed to making continuous improvements to our aid program.

Recently we established the innovationXchange where we identify innovative solutions to otherwise intractable development issues, trial them and if they work we scale them up and apply them in our region.

MIKTA opens up new opportunities to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the programs we deliver.

We can play a bridging role between developed and developing countries.

In coming months, there are two critical global negotiations on development cooperation. In Ethiopia in July, countries will come together to discuss ways to finance how the world tackles poverty.

In New York in September, the nations of the world will seek to agree on the successors to the Millennium Development Goals. These are big issues for Australia and we, along with other MIKTA members, have been a vocal contributor to these discussions. Our participation in these meetings provides an opportunity to combine our voices and support the issues and international institutions which promote our interests and values.

The value of MIKTA as a forum is reflected by how often the foreign ministers meet – three times a year on the margins of the UN General Assembly Leaders' Week, on the margins of the G20 and the especially themed MIKTA Foreign Minister's meeting.

This gives the group a unique and powerful momentum, building deep and lasting connections and I have appreciated the opportunity to get to know my foreign minister counterparts from Mexico, Indonesia, Korea and Turkey, a very unique opportunity.

This September, Korea will hand over to Australia, the position of coordinator of MITKA. I take this opportunity to thank Korea, particularly Foreign Minister Byong-se for all that they have done to enhance MIKTA's capacity and influence. Australia will focus on establishing practical ways of working together to achieve tangible outcomes.

I look forward to hosting my fellow MIKTA foreign ministers in Australia next year, Mexico and Seoul have set a very high standard, so I intend to take the opportunity to showcase to the delegates the best of Australia's world-leading achievements in innovation, science, technology, culture, education, fashion and sport.

Already, MIKTA members have come up with creative ways to build greater people-to-people links between our countries. We are exchanging diplomats, we are engaging in each other's graduate courses in our respective Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We are exchanging academics, students, journalists so we can understand each other better and the challenges we face.

I extend a special welcome this morning to the journalists who have travelled from Seoul, Jakarta, Ankara and Mexico City. I encourage other academics and students in Australia and other MIKTA countries to continue to consider the challenges and opportunities and areas of common interest for MIKTA countries.

I particularly want to thank the Australian National University, and Professor Michael Wesley, for agreeing to lead the MIKTA academic work here at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs.

As MIKTA continues to strengthen, I expect we will find many more opportunities to cooperate, many more opportunities to have our voice heard jointly on issues of concern. Speaking alone, our voices will rarely be as strong as when we speak together. Together, our diversity creates a unique voice that can and will be a powerful advocate for global peace and prosperity.

After a modest beginning, with modest aspirations, we have found that there is so much that we can achieve together and I firmly believe that MIKTA will be a blueprint for others who see a partnership of like-minded but diverse countries as a positive contribution to make to global peace and security.

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