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Speech by ANZCCJ Chair Andrew Gauci on the ocassion of the 60th Anniversary of the Australia-Japan Commerce Agreement

31 Jul 2017 10:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
25 July 2017

Again, thank you Ambassador Court.  It is very fitting to have you speak tonight given the critical role both your father and yourself have played in fostering key relationships in Western Australia that have made the Japan Australia connection so much stronger. I do note that last year Qantas showed great wisdom by putting on a direct flight to Australia's greatest city and my hometown, Melbourne, and Japan Airlines also see where the future lies as they will commence a direct flight later this year. 

From the Japanese side we have with us tonight Mimura san, Kojima san and Aisawa sensei who over many years have been tremendous guardians of the Japan Australia relationship and have helped drive initiatives that have brought our countries closer together.  

Odawara sensei, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan has also kindly joined us tonight and we look forward to his support in helping us reach new heights in the future. 

As Ambassador Court indicated the 1957 Commerce Agreement was the birth of not only a strong and trusting partnership between our two countries, but a true and lasting friendship as well.

60 years ago our two nations came together to achieve something remarkable. At a time not so long after significant conflict and with skeptics raising opposition, a few visionaries from Japan and Australia had the foresight and wisdom to recognise that our futures were always going to be brighter when we worked together and built relationships based on trust and exchange.

In Australia we realised that our future was, and is always, going to be linked intimately with Asia. We could not try to ignore this part of the world and stay in our own little bubble.  There was a need to build strong and lasting partnerships with our neighbours in order to foster a more prosperous region for all.

Following this realisation, our forebears saw an opportunity in a people and country that was reemerging after a turbulent period. It may be difficult to comprehend now but back then there were many countries around the world who grossly underestimated what a relationship with Japan could bring. But tonight we must thank those who were brave enough to look beyond and see what could bind us together, rather than what could separate us.

As a result of this way of thinking, on the 6th July 60 years ago, the Australia-Japan Commerce Agreement was signed. When it came into effect many in both Australia and Japan could not begin to imagine how it would turn out – it was the first agreement of its kind for Japan. However, with the benefit of hindsight we now know just how significantly it would shape our ongoing relations.

The commercial agreement set the foundations for a relationship which would continue to develop and strengthen over the following decades. The shared values and common goals that bind us together led us to forge links over trade, security, and to cooperate in our shared belief in a rules-based international order.

Then in January 2015, following the traditions established in 1957, the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement entered into force. Much like the 1957 treaty, this new arrangement broke new ground as it was one of the most liberalising trade agreements Japan has ever signed. It reinforced the strength and uniqueness of our relationship as we tore down old barriers and worked to establish a new era of free and open trade relations.

These treaties have been key steps on a long journey that has seen our two nations become indispensable trading partners as well as good friends. From humble beginnings, Japan has become Australia's second largest export market, worth $39 billion dollars annually, our third-largest trading partner, and as Ambassador Court noted, our largest source of foreign direct investment. 

Much like the diverse nature of our two countries, trade between us covers a wide range of goods and services. From natural resources, to agricultural products, to automobiles and electronics, the products and ideas that move between us have defined the way that we live our lives and built links that extend beyond commerce alone.

So tonight as we reflect on these past 60 years, it is clear that the signing of the Australia-Japan Agreement on Commerce was instrumental in laying the foundations upon which we could build this wonderful friendship. Much like those who worked tirelessly to bring this vision for a trade relationship into reality, we too are here tonight because we believe in the opportunities that we can offer each other. Looking around at those present here tonight, I am very confident in saying that I believe our future is bright indeed.

There is however much work still to do. We need to open the eyes of Boards in Australia to the real and exciting opportunities that exist in Japan. The glitzy lights of China can look enticing but often don't deliver the depth of relationship, win-win investment, quality of product or shared values that exist when working with our Japanese partners. As an example, despite being in Japan for nearly 30 years, the Board of the organisation I work for, Lendlease, has been slow to understand Japan. However, with high level visits over recent years have come eye opening experiences. We are now embarking on a large scale Joint Venture with a Japanese telecoms player in the US, have Mitsubishi Estate as partners on real estate developments in Sydney and Melbourne, have the likes of Development Bank of Japan, SMBC and Mizuno as integral partners and have grown our team in Japan to over 400 people.  As a chamber we must work harder to open the eyes of many more Australian Boards. 

Similarly, the profile of Australia in Japan has room to grow. The food security provided by the likes of MLA can not be underestimated, the contribution of Rio Tinto to Japanese industry not overlooked and going forward the smarts and global experience of companies such as Macquarie, ANZ and CBA should be leveraged to help drive Japanese success further. 

The great thing is that through the 1957 agreement we are in a position to make things happen.  It is cause to celebrate. 

Finally, I would like to introduce one of the most important Australians, in fact the most important Australian in the Australia Japan relationship over the last 20 years. She has worked tirelessly fostering the deepest relationships any Australian has with senior Japanese politicians and executives. She has guided government on both sides to come to compromise so that important initiatives such as JAEPA have come to fruition. She has brought Japanese farmers to Australia in an effort to improve productivity and understanding, she has provided hope and encouragement to many in Tohoku since the terrible Tsunami. She led the Chamber for 6 years and is owed much. Melanie Brock please come to the stage. 

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