Table Speech

Australia and Japan: Old Friends, New Opportunities

March 07, 2012

H. E. Mr. Bruce Miller
Australian Ambassador to Japan

At the outset, let me express my heartfelt sympathy to the people of Japan now recovering from the enormous damage and sorrow caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake of a year ago. On behalf of the Australian government and people, I pledge our country will continue our support towards reconstruction of Japan as a true friend.

<Basis for Japan-Australia relationship &#8211; Importance of personal exchanges>
I first visited Japan as an exchange student of the Japan Foundation, and have been engaged in this country for over 30 years. Japan is truly my second home.

Japan and Australia have long built close relationships in wide-ranging areas, including trade, investment to security and defense. I am convinced our nations have come to enjoy close relationships as true friends, underpinned by firm bonds fostered through grass-roots personal exchanges.

<Rotary Club and international exchanges>
The Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship program is the world’s largest program provided by a private entity. Since 1947, Rotarians around the world have supported over 40,000 students in about 100 countries.

In Australia, 34,000 Rotarians in 1,164 Clubs implement various activities. Peace Fellows from around the world study for their master’s degrees on peace studies and conflict resolution at the Rotary Peace Center in the University of Queensland. Another Peace Center is established here in Tokyo at the International Christian University. This proves the significant role played by the Australian and Japanese Rotary Clubs in the international arena. I sincerely hope ties between our people will be fortified through Rotary Club service activities.

<Educational exchanges>
Back in the 1970s, there were only a few Australians who studied Japanese like me. Today, Japanese is the most popular foreign language taught at all levels from elementary school to university.

The Australian government aims at promoting personal exchanges through scholarship programs for Japanese students studying in Australia or programs to facilitate exchanges among educational institutions in both countries.

<Success factor of the Australian economy>
The global financial crisis of 2008 stalled economies of many countries, while Australia remained relatively intact without plunging into a recession. How does Australia maintain its high economic growth? Our abundant natural resources are not the sole reason.

The Australian government introduced various measures in the 1980s to enhance international competitiveness, which included the floating exchange rate system, liberalization of the financial markets and tariff reductions.

Influx of inexpensive foreign products compelled reform of our domestic industries and the Australian companies responded promptly. Such reform revitalized our economy and boosted our industries.

Australia engaged actively in technological development and accumulated technical expertise to efficiently utilize its natural resources. Our geographical advantage of being close to Asia or population growth through accepting immigrants all led to the economic prosperity we enjoy today.

<Prospect on the world, the region, and Japan-Australia relationship>
Japan and Australia enjoy strong complementary relationship based on mutual trust. Both of our nations share the values of democracy, rule of law and liberalistic economy.

The financial crisis of 2008 triggered various problems, including economic stagnation, high unemployment rate, market destabilization and unsustainable national debt in Western countries. Asian nations are experiencing power shift, amidst such economic turmoil. The rise of China, India and other emerging economies proves that the 21st century is the “century for Asia.”

I am convinced Japan-Australia cooperation will play an even greater role in this new world structure. Enhanced collaboration will benefit not only our countries, but the Asia-Pacific region or even the world as a whole.

Australia was the only country, besides the US, that provided air transportation to the Earthquake-hit area last March that delivered relief supplies, equipments and personnel. I am convinced Japan-Australia relationship has a bright future. I also believe Japan will recover from the Earthquake and regain its power.

<Trade and investment>
Energy self-sufficiency ratio in Japan stays around 4% and I believe Australia will play an even greater role as a stable energy supplier of coal, natural gas and uranium. Trade and investment between our nations are expanding from the food, energy and natural resources sectors to a wider sphere that holds high potential for growth.

<Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA/FTA)>
Immediate actions must be taken to conclude the overdue Japan-Australia EPA. Australia welcomed the “Basic Policy on Comprehensive Economic Partnerships” announced by the Japanese government in 2010. I sincerely wish that extensive discussion on agricultural trade will become forward-looking and positive. EPA between our countries will enhance Japanese food security, as Japanese companies are encouraged to invest in agricultural or food-processing facilities in Australia and import high-standard healthy and safe food back into Japan at a lower cost.

<Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)>
Australia welcomes the decision made by Prime Minister Noda last November to “start holding talks with related countries towards joining the negotiations of TPP.” This 21st-century agreement aims for economic integration through trade and investment liberalization. TPP addresses non-tariff barriers and envisions achieving Free Trade Area of Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) in the long run. Should Japan join TPP, a large market will be created which is 40% larger than the European Union.

Japan and Australia have enjoyed partnership over many decades. Let me ask for your further assistance to promote Japan-Australia EPA conclusion, enhance trade and investment and facilitate personal exchanges. I am convinced our collaboration will bring security and prosperity beyond our region.