(Foreign Ministers' Talk between Japan and Australia)

Building a Comprehensive Strategic Relationship

Mr Alexander Downer and Mr Taro Aso

March 18, 2006

The Foreign Ministers of Australia and Japan,Mr Alexander Downer and Mr Taro Aso,today declared the partnership between Australia and Japan was stronger than ever. It was based on shared democratic values,mutual respect,deep friendship,and shared strategic views. The two Foreign Ministers in particular celebrated the profound contribution each country had made to the other's economic development. They commemorated the 30th Anniversary in 2006 of the Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Australia and Japan by affirming their commitment to the highest level of ambition in the future development of the relationship.

The two Foreign Ministers noted that Australia and Japan had developed a comprehensive strategic relationship of great significance for both countries. They decided this partnership should be developed further. Australia and Japan have a proud record of achievement in working together to improve regional and international security in areas including in East Timor,Afghanistan,and Iraq and on such issues as non-proliferation,the fight against terrorism,natural disasters such as the 2004 tsunami and the threat of Avian Influenza. Australia and Japan have also been actively engaged in assisting their friends in the Pacific and both countries decided to continue their cooperation in promoting good governance and achieving a more prosperous and safer Pacific,including through consultation at PALM (Pacific Islands Leaders'Meeting). The Foreign Ministers noted in particular the historic joint contribution Australia and Japan were making to the development of a free and democratic Iraq,including through the highly professional manner in which their respective forces were cooperating in Al Muthanna.

The two Foreign Ministers resolved to work together to strengthen the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). They also welcomed the establishment of the East Asia Summit (EAS) and reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate with others with a view to building an East Asian community in the future based on open regionalism. They emphasised the pre-eminent role of these fora in building effective cooperation within the Asia-Pacific region.

The two Foreign Ministers welcomed the commencement of ministerial-level Trilateral Strategic Dialogue between Australia,Japan,and the United States and emphasised the vital contribution all three countries made to maintaining stability and security in East Asia. In that context,they decided to increase further their collaboration in relation to counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation. They decided that Australia and Japan would strengthen their bilateral strategic dialogue and identify new areas to broaden the existing partnership on security matters. As an immediate step,they expressed their intention to hold,on an annual basis,a meeting of Foreign Ministers,a policy dialogue at Secretary/Vice-Minister level as well as a strategic dialogue at senior officials level,with a view to taking the strategic relationship forward.

The two Foreign Ministers confirmed the need to continue efforts to reform the United Nations including the membership and operation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The Ministers also decided Australia and Japan would work together with a view to achieving UNSC reform during this session of the General Assembly. Mr Downer reiterated Australia's support for Japan's permanent membership of the UNSC,commensurate with its standing and contribution to world affairs.

Both Ministers confirmed that it was important to develop and deepen the bilateral economic partnership between Australia and Japan as part of the strategic relationship,in particular through the ongoing Joint Study for Enhancing Economic Relations between Japan and Australia,including the Feasibility or Pros and Cons of a Free Trade Agreement They welcomed that 2007 would mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the landmark Australia-Japan Agreement on Commerce which had laid the foundation for the trading relationship. They shared the view that it would be important to ensure that this anniversary was marked in a way which set the scene for the next 50 years in the relationship. They also noted the importance of and benefit for both countries from the long-standing reliable supply of resources and agricultural produce from Australia to Japan.

Both countries recognise the value of achieving ambitious and balanced outcomes in the WTO Doha Development Agenda (DDA) Round of multilateral trade negotiations and the clear benefit this would have for global development.

The quality of the overarching partnership between Australia and Japan rests on the underlying network of people-to-people relationships. This will be honoured and further extended in the 2006 Year of Exchange. The two Foreign Ministers noted that the "Visit Japan Campaign" and the Australian "Vision One Million" project will also contribute to enhancing people-to-people exchange. The two Foreign Ministers also appreciated the contribution of the Australia-Japan Conference (AJC) process,attended by public and private sector representatives,which had contributed to the development of various policy initiatives.

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