Remarks at the Australia-Japan Commerce Treaty Reception, Canberra

August 8, 2017



Thank you very much, your Excellency Sumio Kusaka, Ambassador of Japan, Masahiko Suenaga President of the Federation of Japan Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Australia. Former Prime Minister John Howard, former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, former Minister for Industry and Science Ian MacFarlane. My Ministerial and Parliamentary colleagues, a number of whom are here today, I’ll note Tony Abbott, former Prime Minister, Steve Ciobo, Trade Minister. I see Luke Hartsuyker there, I saw Ted O’Brien, many others.

It’s good to be here with you all. It’s a testament to the commitment we all have Ambassador, to the relationship – strong and getting stronger – between Australia and Japan. Grant King, President of the Business Council of Australia and so many other leading Australian businessmen and women, it’s wonderful to be here on such a happy occasion, to celebrate a wonderful anniversary and a long and fruitful relationship between our two nations.

Sixty years ago, Australia and Japan signed the Commerce Agreement that would lay the foundations for our future economic cooperation.

The Commerce Agreement was signed by the governments led by Mr Nobusuke Kishi, grandfather of Prime Minister Abe and Sir Robert Menzies. It marked the beginning of a strong and vital partnership between our two countries.

The treaty was very much ahead of its time. It’s been described by John Howard, distinguished former Prime Minister and I would say our greatest, only apart from Menzies, but also becoming more and more a great historian of the Menzies era I might add. John speaks both as a former Prime Minister and a historian, he’s described it as one of Sir Robert’s greatest achievements in government.

And I’m sure Prime Minister Abe would also agree that this high praise should be extended to his grandfather, for their political and economic foresight in reaching across the seas to each other. 

It was an incredible act of reconciliation between our two nations so shortly after a bitter and destructive war.  But that act of reconciliation, that act of friendship is one that has gone on to benefit mightily the people of Australia and Japan.

Their vision has enabled the great iron ore mines of the Pilbara and the coal mines of Queensland to provide the energy and the steel which built modern Japan. In turn, it’s meant that Australians could spend their rising incomes and prosperity by purchasing Japanese cars, computers and consumer goods.

The standards of living of both nations have risen as a result. Neither Japan nor Australia would be the nations they are today without this rich and enduring relationship of the last 60 years.

Japan is a bedrock economic partner for us, but also a truly strategic partner. We share a commitment to regional stability. We share the same values, the same commitment to a rules based order and a commitment to each other’s success.

We are both committed to liberalisation and economic growth as enshrined in the JAEPA, the Japan Australia Economic Partnership Agreement, and now – as the Ambassador and I were just discussing – our mutual determination to lock in the TPP gains.

When the Trump Administration decided not to proceed with the TPP, many said that agreement was finished, it had no future. Prime Minister Abe and I and a number of other leaders felt that we should continue working together to see if we could lock in so much of that great work in the TPP. That work is continuing, Trade Minister Steven Ciobo is leading the charge.

Japan is now Australia’s second-largest export destination and third largest trading partner. In 2015-16 two-way trade was worth over $65 billion.  

But these numbers, as important a symbol of the practical economic way of the partnership – do not convey the warmth, the friendship and the affection that our governments and our peoples share.

 As we all know, after the politicians and the diplomats have put down their pens and patted each other on the back, toasted each other for their eloquence and fine drafting, it’s the people of both countries who have made the Commerce Agreement the success that it is.

They’ve reached out, found common ground and worked together. The opportunities that have been created, the relationships formed and the businesses that have thrived have all depended on these close personal connections embodied by so many of you here tonight.

In my own travels to Japan, I’ve been invigorated by the enthusiasm with which Japan embraces change, technology and innovation and how optimistically Japan looks to the future.

So as our two nations look to the future together, we can be confident that our relationship is closer, stronger and more constructive than ever.

Successive Australian and Japanese governments have worked hard to forge these strong links.

Indeed, when Prime Minister Kishi visited Australia in 1957 after negotiating the Commerce Agreement – and there is a magnificent photograph just there in the gallery where we were standing a moment ago, he could not possibly, couldn't possibly have envisaged the strength of the relationship that his grandson now champions today.

I look forward to visiting Prime Minister Abe in Tokyo later this year or early next year, as we continue to strengthen our ties for the benefit of our nations, the region and beyond.

So I'd now invite you to raise a glass, here’s mine, and I want to toast the success of the Commerce Agreement, the strong and strengthening friendship between Australia and Japan.

Long may it continue, Australia and Japan.


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