29 March 2012
Mr Edano, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan
Mr Mimura, Chairman of the Japan-Australia Business Cooperation Committee (JABCC)
Sir Rod Eddington, President of the Australia-Japan Business Cooperation Committee (AJBCC)
Mr Okamura, Chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI)
It gives me great pleasure to be here tonight to commemorate and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of this remarkable partnership between the business communities of our two countries.
This is a partnership that extends back to almost the beginnings of the post-war economic relationship between Japan and Australia – the visionary Australia-Japan Agreement on Commerce signed in 1957.
During the 50 years since the formation of the JABCC and the AJBCC, the economic relationship between our two countries has grown and diversified to become the most successful in Australia's history.
Your members comprise many of the most prominent companies involved in the trade and investment relationship between Japan and Australia.
Your activities are an inspiring example of the role the business sector can play in strengthening relations between our two countries.
For instance, the Joint Business Conference held each year provides a valuable forum for a frank exchange of views on a wide range of topics relevant both to the bilateral relationship and the wider region.
The AJBCC and the JABCC are closely involved in the dialogue launched last year to promote public-private infrastructure cooperation.
In addition to promoting closer ties between the business communities in both our countries, you also play a central role in breaking down barriers to understanding, including through the fostering of cultural relations.
We have now reached the stage where Australia and Japan are seeking to take our economic relationship to an even higher level.
I am referring of course to the decision in 2007 to start negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) or Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
I am sure I am speaking on behalf of both the Australian and the Japanese Governments when I say how heartened we are by the strong support the JABCC and the AJBCC have shown for the FTA/EPA from the very beginning of negotiations.
This commitment from the business communities of both our countries is of fundamental importance if we are to conclude an agreement that will lead to a strengthening of our trade and investment ties and a closer integration of our two economies.
We also recognise that in order to achieve the greatest possible benefits for both Japan and Australia, an FTA/EPA has to be of a high quality and comprehensive in its scope.
That is why the Australian Government welcomed the release by the Japanese Government in November 2010 of its "Basic Policy on Comprehensive Economic Partnerships", which recognised the importance for Japan of pursuing high-level and comprehensive EPAs.
Australia is seeking commercially meaningful outcomes on agriculture in the FTA/EPA.
At the same time, an FTA/EPA offers the opportunity to remove Australia's remaining tariffs on items of export interest to Japan in important sectors.
Australia is also seeking an FTA/EPA that improves the operating conditions for Australian and Japanese service suppliers in each other's markets, facilitates investment and enhances protections for intellectual property rights.
This can be achieved through the removal of trade barriers and the creation of a more stable and transparent business environment in both our countries.
At its most fundamental level, the FTA/EPA is about laying the foundations for even closer economic ties between Japan and Australia for the future prosperity of both our nations.
So I would like again to congratulate both the JABCC and the AJBCC on the extraordinary contribution you have already made, and to thank you for your continuing support in our common efforts to achieve this goal.
Let us continue to work together to bring about a stronger and more successful partnership between Japan and Australia – not only on behalf of both our countries, but also for the benefit of our region and the world.
Thank you very much.