APEC 2015 Ministerial Meeting

  • Speech, check against delivery


We meet in the wake of the horrendous terrorist attacks against unarmed and defenceless victims in Paris. In condemning these horrific events, we are also reminded that we must stand united in the fight against global terrorism wherever it may arise.

I welcome the Philippines' leadership of APEC this year, and I thank Secretaries del Rosario and Domingo for their warm hospitality here in Manila. I will highlight Australia's work and priorities relating to the "Inclusive Growth" agenda.

Enhancing and fostering innovation will be vital to increasing private sector investment including in necessary infrastructure and driving economic growth. The Australian Government has put innovation at the heart of our economy. We are supporting our creative industries in attracting and retaining our best talent, encouraging and training our entrepreneurs, encouraging start-ups and new ways of financing new ideas, and embracing ingenuity and enterprise.

This is a whole-of-government approach. In our foreign aid program we are tackling seemingly intractable development challenges with new and innovative ideas and ways of providing development assistance.

Our innovationXchange – an ideas hub for our aid program – is working with some of the best creative thinkers internationally and from the private sector to come up with solutions to development challenges.

For a start, we are sourcing new ideas, for example, for aquaculture technologies that will deliver sustainable food and protein sources to developing communities and better manage the environmental impact. Our "Blue Economy" challenge is a $3 million initiative that seeks ideas from an open source base meaning that anyone from a young university student in Manila to an experienced engineer in Perth can submit their ideas to our website on how to use the oceans as a source of economic growth and opportunity. The best and boldest ideas will be selected for trial, and scaled up.

Building skilled and innovative workforces is also a major challenge facing all economies. Education and training must be relevant to industry if we are to seize the opportunities that new technologies offer.

The Australian Government consults closely with business and training providers in shaping our technical and vocational education training system. Industry drives around 80 per cent of all changes made to training programs. Australia has identified areas for improvement in skills training systems across five APEC economies, in transport and logistics, and in lifting connectivity, productivity and labour mobility. A second phase of this initiative, which I announced in Peru earlier this year, is being developed for the four economies of the Pacific Alliance – Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru.

Women's economic empowerment remains a regional and global challenge. Addressing limits on women's participation in the workforce could add around US$90 billion a year to economies in our region. Australia is funding APEC trade promotion agencies to train SMEs operated by women. The training programs will help them access finance, and build technology and logistics capability. It will also include education in international business such as letters of credit, accessing tariff information and e-commerce.

I am pleased to announce a new $46 million flagship project "Investing in Women", funded by Australia in partnership with a number of APEC economies in Southeast Asia. The initiative will help unlock finance to women-led SMEs via loan guarantees, and micro finance. Business coalitions will be formed in developing countries to promote gender equality throughout their supply chains. The initiative will also promote cooperation between governments and business to improve employment conditions such as parental leave, flexible work arrangements and to increase the number of women in leadership roles.

Australia recognises that open and transparent energy markets are the best guarantor of energy security and resilience. We are cooperating with other economies to ensure energy is accessible and to end the "energy poverty" that exists in our region.

We are working with the United States and Indonesia to provide loan guarantees to local commercial banks to encourage the financing of small-scale clean energy projects in 14 provinces in Indonesia, such as micro-hydro power schemes.

Australia has funded a new APEC mining facility to support projects that improve the environment for mining-related trade and investment. Without new investment in coal and gas projects, we will not meet our global energy needs. For example, coal currently supplies around 30 per cent of primary energy and over 40 per cent of global electricity. The use of coal to generate electricity is forecast to rise by over 50 per cent by 2030. The International Energy Agency estimates that over the next 20 years, cumulative global investment in energy production alone will approach US$50 trillion.

Given the opportunities this will provide for mining and energy service providers, Australia is working with several APEC economies and the private sector to encourage the growth of trade in mining-equipment, services and technology in the region.

The rate of urbanisation in our region is among the highest in the world, challenging the liveability of our cities. Around 80 per cent of APEC's GDP growth is produced in urban areas. Public Private Partnerships are the most effective model to deliver quality urban infrastructure. PPP centres in sixteen APEC economies are sharing expertise and lessons learned to deliver bankable projects. Australia's G20 Infrastructure Hub, based in Sydney, is working with APEC, to match projects with finance.

Natural disasters impose high costs on the region's economy. I welcome APEC's leadership in promoting emergency preparedness and disaster resilience. Australia is bringing together agencies from across the region to boost our ability to detect seismic and ocean changes using a range of technologies. Early warning of natural disasters will give governments longer response time to minimise the loss of life and limit the social and economic impact.

Our focus on these six priority areas – innovation, industry-relevant education and training, women's economic empowerment, energy resilience, urbanisation and infrastructure and disaster resilience – will lead to shared economic growth and prosperity across our region - which of course is APEC's reason for being.

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