Joint Foreign Ministers' Press Conference on
the 14th Japan-Australia Ministerial Committee Meeting

  1. Introduction to the press conference on the 14th Japan-Australia Ministerial Committee Meeting
  2. Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs for Japan
  3. Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Australia
  4. Situation in Cambodia
  5. Coordination efforts for COP3

Mr. Yukihiko Ikeda
Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr. Alexander Downer
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Date: August 1, 1997
Location: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This press conference was partially transcribed from simultaneous translation.

I. Introduction to the press conference on the 14th Japan-Australia Ministerial Committee Meeting

Official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Ladies and gentlemen of the press, we would like to start the Joint Press Conference on the 14th Japan-Australia Ministerial Committee Meeting. Both Foreign Ministers will make a short initial remark, and then we will entertain questions. We will proceed with Minister for Foreign Affairs Yukihiko Ikeda first.

II. Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs for Japan

Minister for Foreign Affairs Yukihiko Ikeda: Thank you for allowing me to speak first, Foreign Minister Downer. We had the 14th Japan-Australia Ministerial Committee Meeting, which ended in great success a moment ago. This was the first Committee Meeting since the inauguration of the Howard Government in Australia and the Hashimoto Government in Japan. Therefore, we went into this meeting very eagerly and with great expectations. Co-Chairman, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer of Australia, and other Australian Ministers rendered enormous cooperation. The breadth and width of discussions were unprecedented, reflecting the favorable relations between the two countries. We were able to register excellent results. I believe that there were three achievements at this Ministerial Committee Meeting. Firstly, the Ministers at the ministerial level got together from both countries, and we deliberated on how we can enhance the already important bilateral relations, and we reconfirmed the importance of these relations. More than that, we were able to firmly establish the personal friendship relations between Ministers. Secondly, we as partners discussed various issues in various sectors whether they were bilateral issues or regional issues or global issues. We found many areas where we agreed and where we had consensus. If we had different views, we coordinated and reaffirmed the need to proceed in establishing a better relationship, while coordinating and working on the differences if there are any. Thirdly, as a concrete achievement of the cooperation, the Japan-Australia Partnership Agenda was formally adopted. Since last year, various works were carried out at the working level. When Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto visited Australia, 18 points of basic cooperation were announced. These points were substantiated and worked on further, and then the Partnership Agenda was adopted as the basis for any further cooperation between the two countries. Today, various results or salient discussion points came out of this Committee Meeting. First of all, international relations and the regional political situation were discussed. Regional security, how we should view security and the importance of the United States presence were matters that we discussed. Including these points, we shared many perceptions. We took up the Cambodian issue and exchanged views on other various situations within the region. Turning to economic issues, we discussed how to approach the global framework, i.e., the World Trade Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). In recent years, Asia is regarded as the growth center of the world. APEC is a very important regional framework for fostering economic growth. So the system will be open to the outside world. At the same time, the momentum will be maintained. We had a consensus on these points. Next, we went on to global issues such as global warming, etcetra. As you know, the Third Party Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change (COP3) Meeting is to be held in Kyoto in December of this year. Bearing in mind discussions in the United Nations Special Assembly on the Environment and discussions at the Denver Summit, we further discussed how we can bring about a successful conclusion to the COP3 Meeting in Kyoto. So, we also shared a basic consensus on the importance of working on environmental issues. With respect to regional development, regarding the members of the South Pacific Forum in October, we are going to have the Summit Meeting in Tokyo. I am supposing that Foreign Minister Downer is going to take part in that Summit Meeting. So, we discussed that aspect of regional development. Other than that, we discussed many points. Regarding the economic relations between Japan and Australia, there were numerous points. It is not the case that we agreed on every single point, but in basic terms, Japan and Australia have a relationship of "mutual complimentality." What is the meaning of "mutual complimentality"? I believe that was a question raised by one of the Australian Ministers. I then explained that it is a relationship of the filling in by others of something that one does not have itself, and vice versa. It is like a relationship of husband and wife. The Australian Ministers said that they understood. At times we may quarrel, but after a time, the common ground will become even stronger and solidified. So, that was the kind of discussion we had. This discussion epitomizes the very good relations between the two countries. Bearing in mind the already existing favorable conditions, we will continue our efforts toward furthering the strong ties between the two countries. The adoption of the Partnership Agenda document is something that I would like to explain to you. Looking toward the 21st century, we would like to enhance the relations between the two countries. Also, in the international community, we would like to play our relevant roles. So, that was the gist of what we discussed. I would now like to pass the microphone to Foreign Minister Downer.

III. Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Australia

Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer of Australia: I would like to thank my friend and colleague Foreign Minister Ikeda for his remarks and for his Co-Chairmanship of the Australia-Japan Ministerial Committee Meeting. I certainly agree with his assessment that today's meeting was a very real success. We see this Australia-Japan Ministerial Committee Meeting as one that has been of particular importance, because as Foreign Minister Ikeda suggested, it is the first that has taken place in the life of both the Howard and Hashimoto Governments. The fact that there were so many Ministers involved in the Meeting simply underlines the two Governments continuing strong commitment to advancing our relationship. Foreign Minister Ikeda has already discussed many of the results from today's meeting, and I am clearly not going to repeat all of those. But from Australia's perspective, there are a number of key outcomes from wide-ranging and productive discussions. First of all, and very importantly, we have now formalized a very broad-ranging Partnership Agenda, covering 18 areas of cooperation, which underlines the importance and closeness of the relationship. The copy of the Partnership Agenda which I have here is a new landmark in the relationship, marking a significant contribution to its advancement by both Governments. It clearly demonstrates the Australian Government's commitment to take forward our relations with Japan, and of course more broadly our relations with Asia. It advances both our countries' interests in concrete ways. For example, it commits both sides to the negotiation of a mutual recognition agreement, which will help Australian industry generate jobs by removing barriers to our exports to Japan. A good part of our meeting was spent discussing the climate change issue and the approach of other countries, in particular the European Union, to the climate change negotiations. There was, as Foreign Minister Ikeda said, an understanding of each other's positions, and in a sense, more importantly than that, a commitment to both our sides to work together towards trying to achieve a successful outcome at the COP3 Meeting in Kyoto. I do not think either of us have any illusions about how difficult this job will be. A wide variety of opinions currently exist between just about all countries, which have one day to be drawn together. Hopefully, that can be done in Kyoto. But nevertheless, we did have a very good discussion about it, and we wish Japan well in its task of hosting that meeting. Can I also say, very importantly, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to APEC and to maintaining the momentum of APEC. Australia regards APEC as the fundamental component of regional economic architecture. Japan is obviously a central player in APEC, and the commitment of Japan to developing APEC is something that is very important to us. So, I have been very heartened by the consensus on taking APEC forward, in particular, the development of the Individual Action Plans (IAPs) and the accelerated sectoral trade liberalization. Can I say finally that, as Foreign Minister Ikeda has said, we did discuss regional security issues and the very important role that Japan and also Australia play in maintaining security in the Asia-Pacific region. We have underlined our support for enhanced U.S.-Japan defense cooperation. I would like to inform the media that our Defense Minister will be visiting Japan in September. Our perspectives on regional issues such as Cambodia are perspectives which are very nearly identical. It is very important that Australia and Japan work together to contribute toward a more secure and stable Asia-Pacific region. In conclusion, let me say that it is a testament to the warmth of the relationship that we can have such a wide range of discussions with so few areas of contention. I believe that the Australia-Japan Ministerial Committee Meeting deliberations today will advance quite significantly our high-quality relationship, our high-quality partnership and friendship into the 21st century.

Official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Thank you very much. The floor is now open for questions. If you have a question, please identify yourself by stating your name and affiliation.

IV. Situation in Cambodia

Q: At the Plenary Meeting, you said that the Cambodian issue was discussed. Looking toward the future, what will be the approach that both Ministers will take toward realizing peace in Cambodia and stabilizing the situation there? Are you going to take any partnership action? Are you prepared to take any joint measures for obtaining peace in Cambodia?

Foreign Minister Ikeda: May I respond to your question first? We discussed the situation in Cambodia at the Plenary Session and also at the Counterpart Meeting between Foreign Minister Downer and myself. We took some time in discussing that. To begin with, Australia and Japan served as the Co-Chairs at the Paris Conference in 1989. So, that is the relationship in relation to Cambodia. Since then, regarding the situation in Cambodia, we have always collaborated and coordinated in order to achieve peace in that particular country. We have rendered our efforts. So, including Japan and Australia, as an effort of the international community, we are seeking stability in Cambodia. The international community is making efforts. However, the situation now is endangering those efforts of the international community. Therefore, we share concern over our long years of efforts and Cambodian efforts, because we do not want our efforts until now to be wasted. We should always hope for peace in that country. Until now, Japan and Australia exchanged information and collaborated more than anything in basic terms. The leaders of the Cambodian Government must respect the contents of the Paris Peace Accords. The Constitution and the political system of Cambodia must be respected and maintained. And, of course, basic human rights must be respected. So, these should be ensured. At the same time, next year in May, Cambodia is committed to a general election to be held next year. The election must be conducted in a fair and free manner. That is of paramount importance. Both countries agree on these points. To achieve these goals, the roles that we can play will be discharged. For the time being, we will support the approach of ASEAN toward the situation in Cambodia. While supporting the approach of ASEAN, we will be coordinating and be in close contact. At various stages, we will be responding to the situation jointly if the necessity arises. These are the things that we discussed.

Foreign Minister Downer: I do not have a great deal to add to what Foreign Minister Ikeda has said. He has pretty much summed up our approach, which is an identical approach. We have, ever since the Cambodian crisis erupted early last month, worked very closely with Japan. I have taken the view that it is very important that we do. We are very big aid donors. After all, Japan gives very nearly half of all the development assistance that Cambodia receives. Australia is the fourth largest aid donor to Cambodia. We are Asia-Pacific countries. We are liberal democracies. We are very much partners in the region. Therefore, it has always been appropriate that we have done our best to ensure that our respective positions on Cambodia are coordinated. And that is exactly where we are; they are coordinated. Australia and Japan both support the ASEAN Initiative. We support the outcomes that Foreign Minister Ikeda has outlined in terms of the Cambodian Constitution, the Paris Peace Accords, the elections and the maintenance of human rights in Cambodia. We will keep in close contact with the ASEAN Foreign Ministers and wish them well in their endeavors when they go to Phnom Penh in the next few days. Beyond that, we will certainly be keeping in close contact with each other, both as Ministers and as Governments.

V. Coordination efforts for COP3

Q: I have a question for Foreign Minister Ikeda. We understand that the Australian Government has raised the issue of climate change at these meetings today and other meetings this week. In particular, Australia has a complex formula for trying to decide the targets that each country should take in reducing greenhouse emissions. Also, Australia has a proposal for a flexible negotiating position to try and achieve some resolution to the blockages in the talks. What is your view on these two points put forward by Australia?

Foreign Minister Ikeda: As I said earlier, both Japan and Australia are trying to lead the Kyoto Conference to a success. We do understand that difficulties do lie ahead. We have both committed to one another that we will try to make the Kyoto Conference a successful one. We are currently making efforts along this line. Since we are hosting the meeting, we are not commenting on specific proposals or ideas that have been put forth from various countries toward this meeting. From a broader perspective, I believe that both Australia and Japan agree with each other. Of course, the ultimate outcome should be effective enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It should also be an implementable solution. Also, it is necessary that we come up with an equitable approach, otherwise we would not be able to reach an agreement involving a number of countries. Therefore, in this context, we did have an active discussion in a session. There was an EU proposal, too. I just mentioned that we should not comment on specific proposals, but since there are not people from the EU here, I will comment on the EU proposal. Basically speaking, the following can be said on the EU proposal. I very much wonder whether it is practical to implement the EU proposal to reduce gas emission levels by such a large margin. From an equity standpoint, I do find it rather questionable, because there seems to be a major difference in the treatment of EU member countries and non-member countries according to the EU proposal. With this kind of proposal, it may be difficult to try and gain the acceptance of various other countries. In that sense, we do have a shared view between Japan and Australia. Currently, discussion is going on over the Berlin Mandate. Therefore, further coordination and adjustment of positions would be made toward the Kyoto Conference. Thus, we wish to make the Conference a success. Australia has also committed itself to the success of the meeting. As the host nation, we share the same view.

Foreign Minister Downer: I wish Japan well in the difficult task that it has in having to chair the Kyoto Meeting. I do not think that any of us have any illusions about the differences of view that there are between countries and groups of countries in the case of the EU. I can really add nothing to what Foreign Minister Ikeda has said, except that we certainly share Japan's concerns about the proposals put forward by the European Union. Indeed I would go further and say that it is privately the view of the European Union that its particular proposals will not be successful, and that the target of minus 15 percent will not be accepted. We do have a long way to go, but what has been useful about the discussions we have had on the climate changes is that we have been able to understand each other's perspectives. I think meetings between our Prime Ministers to help do that have been planned, as well. We, as Foreign Minister Ikeda has said, are committed to playing our part in trying to ensure that the negotiations end up successfully. Let us hope that that proves to be possible, because that is in the world's interests.

Q: Regarding COP3, Foreign Minister Downer spoke of the Australian position. Going beyond those differences, Japan needs to coordinate between the various countries, but this will be a very difficult task, as mentioned by Foreign Minister Ikeda. I have a question for Foreign Minister Downer. As a developed nation, what are the points that you need to emphasize, and how will you specifically be emphasizing those points?

Foreign Minister Downer: Actually, Foreign Minister Ikeda used the word I am searching for; that is the word "equitable." I think all the developed nations agree that this is an issue that has to be addressed. I do not think that there is any argument about that. We argue that it should be addressed in an equitable way -- that it is reasonable that we all share some of the burden. It is not very reasonable that it is done in a disproportionate way. Then, that leads you to a debate about how that can be achieved, and that is a complex debate. I do not think that either of us want to get into that this afternoon; it is quite a complex matter. In any case, those sorts of issues are being hammered out at the moment in Germany. Therefore, it is perhaps inappropriate if we ourselves start to get into that much detail. Just let me say that we place emphasis on the word "equity." We place emphasis on people contributing in an equitable way, not in an inequitable way. It is obviously not fair to ask some countries to shoulder a greater burden than others. That clearly is not fair. The definition of the burden will be from the projections for the future and the contribution that you have got to make from those projections concerning greenhouse gas emissions. Our view is that we have all got to contribute in an equitable way. But I am talking here of the developed countries. There is a view that is very strongly expressed by the United States which was the subject of a Senate resolution only a few days ago. This view is that developing countries will also have to be brought into this process. I know that that is something that the Japanese Government is very conscious of and is addressing. This is another complex issue, but all part of the overall formulation. All I can say is that we wish them well.

Official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: We would now like to conclude the press conference. Thank you very much.

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