30 Years of Japan-Australia Relation:
From Trading Partners to Partners of Democracy
By Yasuhisa Shiozaki,
Senior Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan
For the Fourth Japan-Australia Conference
Tokyo, 23 June 2006

The Honourable Mr. Tony Abbott, Minister for Health and Ageing,
Mr. Minoru Murofushi, Vice-Chairman of the Japan-Australia Business Cooperation Committee,
Mr. Hugh Morgan, Chairman of the Australia-Japan Business Cooperation Committee,
Distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my greatest pleasure to welcome you for this important occasion. I am not being "diplomatic" in saying this, as I have many fond memories closely associated with Australia.
My interest in how privatisation works in airports took me to Melbourne, and then all the way to Tasmania, where my dear friend Dr. Ashton Calvert is from.
Also, I cannot help but mention the penetrating debate we had at Coolum Forum, in which I have taken part several times as a charter member.

A Tale of a Japanese Dreamer

Now to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the 1976 Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Japan and Australia, permit me to start my remarks by introducing a Japanese man who may be better known in Australia than in Japan.
His name is Jo Takasuka.
Born in 1865 into a Samurai family, he was one of those ambitious Meiji Japanese who always aimed high.
In 1905 when he was 40, already an old man at that time, he set out on an adventurous trip with his wife Ichiko, and eventually set foot in Melbourne.
This courageous voyage would engender, literally, the first seed of rice in Australia.
In short, they would become the "parents" of Australian rice growers, for it was the Takasuka couple who made the first sustained attempt to grow rice in Australia, on the Murray River, near Swan Hill, which is in the north west of Victoria.

I am very much drawn into the story of this remarkable man: first because it illustrates that a single individual, a dreamer rather, can make a huge difference to a nation's subsequent development, and second and more importantly because he was from Matsuyama, Ehime, which is exactly my own constituency.

The commonality between us does not even stop there: Jo Takasuka, before moving to Australia, spent two terms as a Lower House legislator just like me.
It is therefore gratifying to know also, that there can still be life after politics.

On Economic Ties

Thirty years ago when the Treaty came into being, Japan and Australia were already vital trading partners, and still we are so.
The bilateral trading volume has seen a staggering six-fold growth. Over the last ten years alone, Japanese direct investment into Australia has rocketed to 16 times the 1996 level.

If Japanese FDI into Australia is concentrated in the development of natural resources, so is Australian FDI into Japan.
It is the Japanese natural resource in the shape of powder snow.
Few could have foreseen that in 30 years time, there would be an Aussie village up north in Niseko, Hokkaido, linked in winter time by a direct flight connection to Australia.
I can only appreciate Messrs Morgan and Murofushi and their colleagues for were it not for their dedicated effort to enhance our economic ties, we could not have come this far.

I would like to say that Japan and Australia should continue to aim high, namely building a "strategic economic partnership".
Closer economic relation between Japan and Australia brings about benefit not only in a bilateral context but also in the context of regional integration.
Prime Ministers Junichiro Koizumi and John Howard have directed both governments to start looking deep into the way in which we can enhance our economic relations.
As a result, a joint, inter-governmental study has continued, on the feasibility of a possible Free Trade Agreement or Economic Partnership Agreement. I would like to urge my colleagues at Japan's Foreign Ministry and their counterparts in Australia to accelerate the process.
Bearing in mind that next year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic bilateral Agreement on Commerce, I strongly expect that the result of the study will pave the way for laying the foundation of our economic partnership for the next 50 years.

An Evolving Partnership

Yet during the same period of the last thirty years, an undercurrent desire to broaden the bilateral relations beyond a natural economic partnership has never lost steam, and this is my second point.

Thirty years on, if I may respond to what Prime Minister Howard has said of late, Japan has no closer partner or friend in the region than Australia.
I should go on to say that tightly bound by shared values, Japan and Australia together make "Partners of Democracy along 135 degrees east longitude".

Let me elaborate on this for a moment.
Australia and Japan, with shared democratic value, have both will and capacity to contribute to the stability and prosperity of the region and of the world.

Firstly, it is a partnership that drives the newly created East Asia Summit, which Japan and Australia worked hard jointly together to launch late last year.
Let us continue to go forward so that in the not too distant future, we can build a region-wide community where everyone prospers.

Secondly, the partnership lies deep at the core of regional security.
Together, Japan and Australia have evolved into making a joint, in-built stabiliser, crucial to provide peace and stability throughout the region.
It was Australia and Japan that first rushed to Aceh, Indonesia, for the rescue of the people affected by the Tsunami. It was us again of late that did the same when the nation yet again suffered from a massive earthquake.

Still, ahead of us in the region exists a plethora of problems, ranging from the situation in East Timor, maritime pirate activities, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, North Korea's attempt to go nuclear, abduction of innocent citizens, and development of ballistic missiles, to human and drug trafficking, all calling for our combined effort to do more to maintain peace and stability.
So let us face up to the challenges as jointly, we can surely do much more.

Third and last about the partnership, it can play a pivotal role as a stabiliser not just for the region we are in, but far beyond.

In East Timor and not to mention in Iraq, close beside us we have always found Australians.
This week, the Government of Japan came to a decision that upon the hand-over of security provision from the Multi National Forces to the Iraqi authority in Al-Muthanna, it would redeploy Japanese troops.

While there still remains much to be done to help support the rebuilding process of the Iraqi nation, and the Japanese government pledges to continue doing its utmost to that goal, allow me to take this opportunity in asking all the participants to join me applauding the Australians who have contributed to security in Al-Muthanna, and our proud young men and women in uniform who have accomplished their mission, for their hard work.
I am certain that we can work similarly together in the future for consolidating peace under post-conflict circumstances, by making this experience Japan and Australia together had in Iraq a model.

Of note also is that when Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso went to Australia earlier this year, both nations agreed to build a comprehensive strategic relationship.
And I should also like to stress that the comprehensive strategic relationship between Tokyo and Canberra is now part of a broader framework that involves Washington as well.
I am of course talking about the newly launched Trilateral Strategic Dialogue.
The time is ripe for the three of us to invest our capital into the Dialogue so that it will have real equity to give further durability to peace and security in the region and beyond.

Let us continue to be dreamers

Not much time is left, and I will be brief in conclusion.
We all owe tremendously to two of our visionary leaders.
They were the late Japanese Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira and the then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.
At the initiative of these two leaders, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council or the PECC was born.
We all know that the PECC was a cradle for APEC, and without APEC we could not have had a sense as we have today that it is here in the Pacific region we can be the great achievers.
Look at how far the nations in the region have come since.
The lesson that the two great Prime Ministers left is pure and simple.
It is that "A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality", as John Lennon once said.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us continue to be dreamers and dream big.

Thank you very much.

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