APEC Ministerial Meeting

  • Speech, check against delivery
08 November 2017

Thank you Minister and to the Government of Vietnam for hosting APEC 2017, and we particularly appreciate the robust agenda for discussion.

APEC was established to achieve greater regional economic integration to drive prosperity in our region.

Open markets and free trade are proven drivers of economic growth – APEC as a whole is currently expected to achieve its fastest rate of economic growth since 2012.

Allow me to place this in an historic context. In the aftermath of the Second World War it was recognised that we needed to "create a world out of chaos" and establish rules within an international order to prevent a recurrence of the catastrophic impacts of global conflict.

The web of treaties, alliances and institutions underpinned by international law that emerged has created that order – instigated, implemented, promoted and defended primarily by the United States and other nations.

Pursuant to this order and the wider embrace of market forces and competition, more open global trade and investment, the multilateral trading system and domestic reforms, the greatest economic expansion in human history has been achieved. Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty.

Many developing nations of the Indo-Pacific, including Vietnam, are experiencing sustained economic growth that is forecast to see relative global economic weight continue to move into this region.

It is vital that we do not take for granted the gains over the past seventy years.

This includes negotiations that deliver mutual benefits, such as through free trade agreements.

It also means peaceful negotiations in good faith to resolve differences.

There are well developed frameworks such as UNCLOS to guide issues in the maritime domain.

The WTO provides for the resolution of trade disputes.

International relations must not revert to the zero sum games that so often dominated the first half of the twentieth century, where one nation's gains only came at a cost to others.

Working cooperatively in a global environment, a rising tide lifts all boats.

The United Nations Security Council is another pillar of the rules based order as the principal forum for the maintenance of peace and security.

I commend the members of the United Nations Security Council and particularly the Permanent Five, for the Security Council's recent actions in response to North Korea's ongoing and illegal development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

The DPRK has chosen the path of challenging the international rules based order, particularly the authority of the Security Council. It is vital that members act to defend and uphold that authority.

The sanctions against the Kim regime are the strictest yet imposed – and the North Korean leadership must respect the combined will of the international community and return to the negotiating table, abandon its development of weapons and focus on the needs of the long suffering North Korean people.

Sanctions are only as effective as they are universally applied, and I welcome the strong commitment to the latest sanctions by all Permanent Five members, and particularly China as North Korea's largest trade and investment partner.

The same principle underpins the entirety of the rules based order. It is only as strong as the commitment of the individual nations to uphold the authority of its various arms.

We therefore individually carry responsibility to ensure our actions and conduct are in support of the rules and norms that have supported our economic interests over previous decades which are essential to ensure that global economic expansion continues.

While we have come far in terms of development, many millions of people remain stranded in poverty.

The best hope is for these communities to engage more fully in the global economy and that can only occur within a rules based international framework that protects the interests of all.

Australia does not presume to tell others how to reform or regulate their economies. However we can offer the benefits of our experience, as our nation now holds the world record, as we now enter our 27th consecutive year of uninterrupted economic growth.

We know that central to achieving sustainable development is ensuring economic growth is inclusive and this can only be achieved if the fundamentals of good governance are central to enacting pro-economic policy and management.

Australia will continue to support the important structural reform work that occurs within and outside APEC.

The women's economic empowerment agenda in APEC must remain a priority. I announce today that Australia is contributing $1 million to the newly established APEC sub-fund dedicated to policies and programs that empower women, particularly female entrepreneurs.

You'll find a booklet on your desk – a toolkit, a reference guide on what trade promotion organisations can do to equip women entrepreneurs with the skills to build export capacity to access global markets.

Empowering women to take part in the formal economies in our region will drive productivity and growth. It is not just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do.

I look forward to advancing this agenda during APEC 2018 hosted by friend and partner Papua New Guinea.

Thank you Minister.

- Ends -

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