The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has signed a free trade agreement with the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.
The agreement is called The Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA). It ensures that more than 97% of Australia’s exports to Japan will receive preferential access or enter duty-free.
The signing followed this morning’s speech by Abe to a joint sitting of the Parliament.
The two Prime Ministers held a joint press conference after signing the agreement. Abbott and Abe will travel together to the Pilbara tomorrow.
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- Watch Abbott and Abe (23m – transcript below)
- Listen to Abbott and Abe (23m)
Statement from Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Today, Japanese Prime Minister Abe and I signed an historic free trade agreement between Japan and Australia.
Australia owes much of its economic prosperity to our trade and investment with Japan over the last 50 years.
Japan is our third largest source of foreign investment; it was our largest trading partner for more than 40 years and Australian resources such as coal and iron-ore have helped Japan become an industrial powerhouse.
The Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA) was finalised during my visit to Japan earlier this year and today’s signing brings us another step closer to realisation of the benefits of the Agreement for Australian and Japanese consumers, families and businesses.
This is the first free trade agreement that Japan has made with a major developed economy.
For Japan, the Agreement means even better access to the Australian market for its manufactured goods.
For Australia, it means better access for our beef, dairy, wine, horticulture and grain products.
Freer trade means more economic growth and more economic growth means more prosperous people and fairer societies.
Prime Minister Abe and I also signed an agreement to deepen our defence science, technology and materiel cooperation.
The Australia-Japan defence relationship, based on shared values and interests, is an important contribution to peace and stability in the Asia Pacific.
Prime Minister Abe will now accompany me to the Pilbara and Perth to see first-hand the impressive results Australian and Japanese companies are achieving together.
Transcript of joint press conference with Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, at Parliament House, Canberra.
PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT: Back in April I travelled to Japan as the first stop on my North Asian trip. It was great to enjoy the exuberant hospitality of Prime Minister Abe in Japan back then and in particular to be part of the finalisation of negotiations for the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement.
This agreement was seven long years in the making, but I am so pleased and proud that we have brought it to this point today where it has been signed by myself and my friend, Shinzo.
I want to thank everyone involved in this historic journey. I particularly want to thank my friend and parliamentary colleague, the Trade Minister Andrew Robb and I would also thank Jan Adams and the team from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who have put so much professional effort into this.
Today’s historic visit has been about so much more than just trade, important though trade is.
Today’s visit is about a friendship – a special relationship – which has now been well and truly on foot for six decades.
Japan is a very, very close friend of Australia.
Japan and Australia have so much in common and I am sure that our relationship will go from strength to strength as a result of this visit and as a result of the annual leaders’ meetings that will henceforth take place.
There is much more to do here in Australia over the next couple of days. We have discussions with the Cabinet that will take place shortly after this press conference, followed by discussions with business colleagues and then tonight’s dinner. Tomorrow, Prime Minister Abe and myself will be travelling to the Pilbara which has done so much for both our countries.
The Pilbara is where the minerals revolution began. The Pilbara has been the source of the iron ore which has built so much of modern Japan and which has been the foundation of so much of modern Australia’s prosperity. So it’s very fitting and appropriate that we should go to the Pilbara to pay our respects – to pay our respects – to the country and the people which has been so significant for Japan’s economy, for Australia’s economy and for the economic strength of the wider world.
So I think this has been a really marvellous visit and in conclusion, Shinzo, I want to thank you in a most heartfelt way for your extraordinary address to our Parliament this morning. To speak in such a warm -indeed emotional – way to convey such deep and heartfelt messages would be extraordinary under any circumstances, but for you to do that in English was very, very touching indeed.
So Shinzo, thank you so much. I am personally deeply honoured by this visit and our country is deeply honoured by this visit.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: I am the one that is exuberant that I am able to visit Australia once again after seven long years since my last visit to Australia.
This is my fourth meeting with Tony since October of last year. I have been having exchanges of views with Tony at the pace of almost once every three months and we have been able to come up with a series of concrete results to further deepen the Japan-Australia relationship during this time.
First, in the economic area we just signed the Japan-Australia EPA which our two countries started to negotiate in 2007 when I was Prime Minister of Japan. The Japan-Australia EPA is a crucially important framework to promote bilateral trade and investment which has an historic significance for a closer bilateral relationship. We will expedite our work so that the EPA can take effect as promptly as possible.
We also confirmed that the two countries will closely cooperate with each other towards the early conclusion of the TPP negotiations.
Second, in the area of security and defence, we just signed the agreement for the transfer of defence equipment and technology which we decided to start negotiations on in April.
Furthermore, we affirmed that preparations are underway for a joint research in marine hydrodynamics and also that negotiations will begin towards a framework to facilitate joint operations in training and also that we will be implementing these and other proposals which came out from the Japan-Australia 2 + 2 Foreign and Defence Ministers consultation held in June.
Such steps to enhance our security and defence cooperation combined with Japan’s policy of proactive contribution to peace will make even greater contributions to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
Thirdly, in the area of people-to-people exchange, we agreed to make the flow two-directional in Australia’s New Colombo Plan and to enhance people-to-people exchange, including university exchange and parliamentarian exchange.
Japan and Australia which share universal values and strategic interests will be playing even a greater role in realising our common objectives such as peace and stability in the regional and international communities and promoting the rule of law in global public goods including the seas and airspace.
We were able to confirm today the Japan-Australia relationship has been elevated to a new special relationship by strengthening our cooperation which I have described and [inaudible] exchange of views on the regional situation as a topic in my meeting with Australian Cabinet ministers that is to follow.
I would like to extend my deep felt gratitude to Tony – Prime Minister Abbott of the Commonwealth of Australia – and also to the Australian people who have given me warm hospitality during my trip at this time.
ABBOTT: Well thank you so much, Shinzo, and we have some questions and I understand the first question will be from Phil Coorey.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, gentlemen. Just a question to you both – given the sensitive in our region at the moment and the elevation of our relationship from this visit, I wonder how you both think China may regard the events of today? And to you, Prime Minister Abe, you made some very strong statements this morning in the Parliament about regional stability and I wonder, are you asking Australia to be a closer ally with Japan than China because of the current tensions?
ABBOTT: If I could begin, Phil, the point that I reiterated in the Parliament today, as it was put by our distinguished friend and my distinguished predecessor John Howard, Australia does not have to choose between its history and our geography and we do not, as I’ve put it, win new friends by losing old friends and what I want to do- what I’m confident Prime Minister Abe wants to do- is to deepen all of our relationships.
Now, I also think that our region will go forward together in harmony, in peace, or ultimately it won’t go forward at all. This is the point that I made in Japan in April. It is the point I made in Korea in April and it is the point I made in China in April: we will all advance together or we won’t advance at all. I am confident that this is ultimately appreciated by all of the major countries in our region.
Finally, I just want to stress that I am very, very happy to be standing here today with my friend Shinzo Abe complimenting Japan on the work it has done in the world over the last few decades. Since 1945 Japan has been an exemplary international citizen and we will go forward further and faster and better if we look to the present and the future than if we dwell too much on the distant past.
ABE: Thank you, Tony. The Japan-China relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships, so we would like to go back to the point of origin of a mutually beneficial relationship based on strategic interests in order to further improve the relationship between Japan and China. The door for dialogue is always open from the Japanese side, so I do sincerely hope that the Chinese side will also take the same posture.
It’s a fundamental position of Japan that we are keen to improve our relationship with China – has been fully explained to Prime Minister Abbott, however, we also discussed China’s attempts to unilaterally alter the state status quo. China, along with Japan and Australia, should play a greater role for peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. China to share and to accept the international norms and to play a concerted role in the region- that is what I am hoping China will do.
ABBOTT: Thank you. Well the next question is from Mr Kawano.
QUESTION: My question is for two Prime Ministers. You signed the Japan-Australia EPA today. On the other hand the roadmap or the pathway for the conclusion of the TPP negotiations has not become evident. In the United States, mid-term elections are imminent and there are pessimistic views that we can’t have a firm outlook for an agreement. What timing do you aim for? What kind of an agreement in terms of TPP? Can you be concrete in describing your aim?
ABE: The TPP negotiations are now in the final stage. Between Japan and Australia we are seeing a very smooth progression in terms of negotiations. Today, in my meeting with Prime Minister Abbott, we agreed that we should continue to cooperate so that towards the early conclusion of the TPP agreement, it is balanced and comprehensive and high standard. We don’t have a specific date as target in our negotiations, but Japan would like to accelerate negotiations with each participating country of the TPP negotiations and we intend to make our utmost efforts in order to aim for the early conclusion of the TPP.
ABE: Well, I share Prime Minister Abe’s views on this and I think that the successful conclusion of the Japan-Australia economic partnership agreement bodes well, augers well for a successful conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. I take your point that these are always difficult things to negotiate through the Congress and when I was in Washington just a few weeks ago, I heard a range of views from senior congressional leaders on the TPP. There is no doubt, though, that the administration is deeply committed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And given the commitment of the administration to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, given the general commitment of the Republican Party towards freer trade, I think we are entitled to be optimistic that we will get an early and successful conclusion to these negotiations.
Now, I believe the next question is from Mark Simkin of the ABC.
QUESTION: Thank you, Prime Minister. Prime Minister Abe, according to New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Japan is planning to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean but in a way consistent with the recent court decision. Could you confirm whether that is accurate and Mr Abbott, if I could ask to you respond please?
ABE: Japan is a country which values international law and order and the rule of law and therefore Japan will abide by the decision passed by the International Court of Justice- the ICJ – the decision by the ICJ confirms that one of the objectives of the international convention for regulating whaling is indeed a sustainable use of resources. Based on this, Japan looking at international law and scientific grounds, will engage in research of whaling in order to collect the indispensable scientific information in order to manage the whale resources. In any case, differences in our positions in whaling should not impact our favourable bilateral relationship overall and that is the important part.
ABBOTT: Mark, it is greatly to Japan’s credit that it has respected the decision of the international tribunal, even though the decision didn’t go the way Japan had hoped. Again, this is further confirmation, if any were needed, that Japan has been an exemplary citizen throughout the post war period and a country which absolutely respects the rule of law in international affairs. Obviously, Australia and Japan respectfully differ on the question of whaling. Friends can disagree on subjects and that’s in no way inconsistent with a strong and growing friendship, but the point I keep making is that the friendship between Australia and Japan is far, far bigger than our disagreement on one particular subject.
Now, I think the final question is from Mr Kuwabara of the Sankei Shimbun.
QUESTION: My first question is for Prime Minister Abe. Your trip at this time is the first time since the cabinet decision on developing the security system, including collective self-defence right so before this press conference when you were delivering the speech at the Australian Parliament, you said that you want elevated leadership to a new special relationship and also you signed an agreement for the transfer of defence technology with Prime Minister Abbott and what other areas do you expect for the enhancement of cooperation and do you intend that such special cooperative relationship in security and defence as you have passed with Australia, will that also be expanded to other countries with whom you share values?
And I have a question for Prime Minister Abbott as well. So, limited acceptance of the collective self-defence right, what is your view on this for Japan to adopt this posture?
ABE: The new special relationship resource which was confirmed with Prime Minister Abbott is based on the common strategic interests and universal values – in that we will further develop our bilateral strategic partnership so that countries will be able to more deeply, more extensively cooperate towards the goal of building peace and prosperity in the region and in the world.
Just a while ago, I delivered a speech at the Australian Parliament for the first time as the Prime Minister of Japan and I’m very happy that I was able to explain my start. And in Prime Minister Abbott’s speech preceding mine, we were also able to confirm our common values – such as the rule of law and the free market and also the strong bond between Japan and Australia.
On July 1, my government made a cabinet decision on developing the new security law system. This would enable us to protect the lives of our citizens and the peaceful livelihood of our citizens under any circumstances. It also enabled Japan to play a more proactive role in the international community. A while ago, Prime Minister Abbott, you have expressed your welcome to this.
Japan and Australia, in the security and defence cooperation area, have closely cooperated on the ground of the international contribution such as assistance to damages by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines as well as search for missing Malaysian aircraft. So, standing under the broad cooperation we agreed on such as the agreement for the transfer of defence and technology.
Going forward, we will further enhance our joint training between Japan and Australia and also trade amongst Japan, Australia and the United States. Also step up people-to- people exchange and also strengthen cooperation in terms of humanitarian assistance and emergency disaster relief. Going forward, Japan based on proactive contribution to peace, we would like to closely collaborate with the United States and also Australia and other countries concerned so that Japan will be able to play an even bigger role in ensuring peace and stability and prosperity in the international world. We want to make sure that our seas and oceans stay free and therefore the rule of law should be shared amongst a greater number of countries. And that is also instrumental.
ABBOTT: If I could speak in Australian, as it were – give Japan a fair go. Give Japan a fair go.
Japan should be judged on its actions today, not on its actions 70-odd years ago and Japan has been an exemplary, an exemplary international citizen in the post-war era. These are the standards by which Japan should be judged -its actions today, not its actions 70-odd years ago because Japan today is a radically different country than it was 70 years ago.
As Shinzo made crystal clear in the Parliament today, the lessons of the past have been well and truly learned and they will never ever be forgotten. They won’t be forgotten by Australia and they certainly won’t be forgotten by Japan.
At every step of the way, since 1945, Japan has been a country which has acted in accordance with the rule of law. Japan has been a first class international citizen and because Japan has been a first class international citizen, I welcome its full participation in the family of nations – its full participation as a normal country in the family of nations.
Thanks very much indeed.