Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally



1.1.1 North Asia

Overview

Photo - See caption below for description
Prime Minister Gillard is escorted by Mayor of Minamisanriku, Mr Jin Sato, in Miyagi prefecture on 23 April 2011.
Photo: Copyright Auspic

North Asia is of key strategic and economic significance to Australia. Its markets account for over half of Australia’s merchandise exports. The stability and economic development of the region, and its relationship with the United States, bear directly on Australia’s security and prosperity.

In 2010–11, the department promoted the Government’s broad strategic and economic goals in the region through facilitating high-level visits and advocating our interests bilaterally and in regional and multilateral forums.

To strengthen ties with North Asian countries, the department supported visits to China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) by Prime Minister Gillard, and visits to the region by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, and the Minister for Trade, Dr Emerson. We hosted a visit to Australia by Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, and assisted with high-level visits from China. These visits demonstrated the depth of our relations and our interest in furthering economic and security cooperation. We led Australia’s response to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The department worked consistently to promote Australia’s economic interests through leading negotiations on free trade agreements (FTAs) with China, Japan and the ROK. The department organised its largest ever public diplomacy event—the Australian pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010—which provided opportunities to increase understanding of Australia to an audience of over eight million and highlighted our economic potential.

Table 1. Australia’s Trade in Goods and Services with North Asian Economies(a)

  Exports Exports   Imports Imports  
Goods and services 2009 2010 Trend growth
2005-2010
2009 2010 Trend growth
2005-2010
  $m $m % $m $m %
China 47,923 64,376 27.3 37,242 40,950 12.7
Japan 40,277 45,669 7.9 18,814 20,421 1.3
Republic of Korea 17,453 22,400 11.9 6,947 7,713 4.8
Taiwan 7,081 8,934 7.1 3,604 3,886 -1.5
Hong Kong, China 4,583 4,865 1.8 3,048 3,081 0.5
Other (b)(c) 72 58 1.3 17 18 -9.6
Total North Asia 117,389 146,302 14.6 69,672 76,069 6.8

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
(b) Goods data only. Services data is not published by the ABS for these countries.
(c) Other comprises Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Macau and Mongolia.
Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.

Japan

The relationship with Japan ranks among Australia’s closest and most important. The 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami was a defining event in Japan and attracted significant public attention in Australia. Helping Japan to overcome the disaster became a major focus of our bilateral cooperation and contributed to deeper and more enduring community contacts and understanding. The department provided close support for disaster relief cooperation, in particular Australia’s Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR) and Defence’s Operation Pacific Assist following the earthquake and tsunami.

To promote our interests across a broad agenda of issues, the department facilitated high-level visits to and from Japan. We supported the visit by Prime Minister Gillard in April 2011, the first by a foreign leader at the invitation of the Japanese government after the tsunami. The department worked with Japanese officials in the lead up to the visit to Tokyo by Mr Rudd in October 2010 to engage the then Foreign Minister, Mr Seiji Maehara, on our bilateral and international policy objectives. The department also facilitated the Prime Minister’s visit to attend the APEC Leaders’ meeting in November 2010.

We oversaw arrangements for Dr Emerson’s participation in the APEC Ministerial meetings in Yokohama in November 2010; the then Foreign Minister Maehara’s visit to Australia in November 2010; and the visit to Australia in February 2011 by Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Mr Banri Kaieda.

The department facilitated the visit by Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Mr Marles, to Japan in October 2010 for the Intersessional Japan–Pacific Island Leaders’ Meeting and in June 2011 to discuss Australia and Japan’s shared interests in the Pacific. The embassy in Tokyo supported visits to Japan by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy, in October 2010 and the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, Mr Swan, in November 2010.

The department worked consistently to expand security cooperation by leading negotiations on a bilateral Information Security Agreement, which we expect to be finalised in late 2011. We engaged Japan on major regional and global security challenges, including through political–military officials’ talks in April 2011. Australia and Japan jointly led the work of the multilateral nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI). Reflecting our shared approach to multilateralism, we worked with Japan on the East Asia Summit (EAS), APEC forum, ASEAN Regional Forum, World Trade Organization, United Nations and the G20.

Japan remained Australia’s second-largest trading partner and export market in 2010 and our third-largest source of foreign direct investment. We contributed to developing trade and investment with Japan by advising ministers on the liberalising opportunity arising from the Japanese Government’s renewed commitment to economic reform, and the likely impact on trade and investment of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In 2011, the department supported the second meeting of the Trade and Economic Ministers Dialogue in Sydney in February and participated in the first Australia–Japan government–business dialogue on infrastructure, held in Tokyo in March. The department continued to lead FTA negotiations (see Bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations 1.1.7). We worked to ensure our differences on whaling did not disrupt the broader relationship.

 

FIGURE 5. Australia’s trade in goods and services with Japan (a)

FIGURE 5. Australia’s trade in goods and services with Japan

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.

China

Photo - See caption below for description
Minister for Trade, Dr Emerson, with the Director of the China National Development and Reform Commission,
Mr Zhang Ping, in Beijing on 2 November 2010.
Photo: Courtesy of China’s National Development and Reform Commission

The department continued to pursue a comprehensive, constructive and cooperative relationship with China, which is now Australia’s largest two-way trading partner for goods and services. The department helped strengthen relations with China through pursuing expanded bilateral economic links and cultural, social and educational ties. We also furthered cooperation with China through multilateral mechanisms, including the East Asia Summit (EAS), APEC forum, ASEAN Regional Forum, World Trade Organization, United Nations and the G20. The department engaged China on human rights through targeted representations and at our annual human rights dialogue.

The department enhanced the trade, economic and security relationship by supporting high-level visits in both directions. Prime Minister Gillard’s visit in April 2011 highlighted the growing trade and economic relationship along with a commitment on both sides to strengthen bilateral relations, increase cooperation on regional and international issues, and build links at the leadership level. We organised the visit to Australia of Politburo Standing Committee Member Jia Qinglin later in April 2011 which reaffirmed the value of maintaining regular high-level exchanges.

The value of trade with China topped $100 billion for the first time in 2010, reaching $105.3 billion, an increase of 23.7 per cent compared to the previous year. Resources and energy constitute about 89 per cent of our merchandise exports to China.

To diversify Australia’s interests, the department is working with other government agencies and industry to exploit new opportunities opened up by China’s continued high growth. The department supported Dr Emerson’s chairing, with China’s Minister for Commerce, Chen Deming, the biennial Joint Ministerial Economic Commission in Beijing in April 2011.

We facilitated the visit of the Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, Ms Elliot, to promote Australia’s international education services expertise at the largest education exhibition in China, the China International Education Exhibition and Tour, in March 2011.

FIGURE 6. AUSTRALIA’S TRADE IN GOODS AND SERVICES WITH CHINA (a)

FIGURE 6. Australia’s trade in goods and services with China

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.

With Austrade, the department continued to refine the Government’s trade and investment strategy by matching Australian industry strengths with emerging opportunities in China’s fast-growing inland provinces in sectors such as automotives, financial services, agribusiness, clean energy and sustainable urban development. To assist this, the department worked to establish a bilateral Services Sector Promotion Forum. From a low base, Chinese investment in Australia is rising rapidly, especially in mining and energy. Progress towards a comprehensive FTA with China was slow, with sensitivities remaining on both sides (see Bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations 1.1.7).

The department coordinated Australia’s participation in the Shanghai World Expo, which surpassed expectations, with over eight million visitors to our pavilion, 219 business events and 10 800 cultural shows. We facilitated the commencement of reciprocal cultural promotions in June 2010 with the Year of Australian Culture in China, followed by the Year of Chinese Culture in Australia starting in February 2011.

To boost cooperation, under the Special Visits Program, the department arranged a visit by the Director-General of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing, Zhai Kun. To strengthen Australia-China collaboration in the performing arts, the department organised a visit by the President of the National Centre for Performing Arts, Chen Ping, which focused on future collaboration with major Australian performing arts companies.

Taiwan

Australia’s merchandise exports to Taiwan were valued at $8.4 billion in 2010, our sixth-largest merchandise export market. The department led annual bilateral economic consultations with Taiwan in May 2011 which delivered better treatment of Australian exports under Taiwan’s rice import quota system. By negotiating an Investment Promotion Accord with Taiwan, the department improved the investment environment for Australian investors. With the aim of helping to expand tourism from Taiwan to Australia, the department worked with other agencies in implementing a streamlined Electronic Travel Authority for Taiwan passport-holders.

FIGURE 7. AUSTRALIA’S TRADE IN GOODS AND SERVICES WITH TAIWAN (a)

FIGURE 7. Australia’s trade in goods and services with Taiwan

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.

Hong Kong and Macau

Photo - See caption below for description
The Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, Ms Elliot, meets students at the 2011 China International Education Exhibition Tour in Beijing in March 2011

The department worked with the Australian business community to advance commercial interests in Hong Kong and Macau. We supported visits by Dr Emerson, the Assistant Treasurer, Mr Shorten, and the Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism, Senator Sherry to Hong Kong. The department facilitated the visit to Australia by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, in June 2011 to further strengthen bilateral relations. The Consulate-General in Hong Kong continued to provide assistance to Australian business in Macau. The department was closely involved in concluding a Taxation Information Exchange Agreement with Macau, which we expect to be signed in July 2011.

Republic of Korea (ROK)

The department led whole-of-government efforts to strengthen the important and growing political and economic relationship which Australia pursues with the ROK. The department worked closely with other agencies and the ROK to ensure a successful G20 Summit in Seoul in November 2010 and made progress in FTA negotiations (see Bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations 1.1.7). The department led government work in giving practical effect to the Revised Action Plan on Enhanced Global and Security Cooperation, endorsed by the then Prime Minister Rudd and ROK President Lee Myung-bak. It contributed to enhanced security links by supporting Australian involvement in ROK–US joint exercises on the Korean peninsula. Working with other agencies, the department took part in Proliferation Security Initiative exercises Australia and the ROK hosted.

Photo - See caption below for description
Prime Minister Gillard with President of the Republic of Korea, Mr Lee Myung-bak, on 25 April 2011.
Photo: Copyright Auspic

The department facilitated the Prime Minister’s visit to the ROK in April 2011 to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The visit underlined the Government’s commitment to expanding cooperation with the ROK. The department worked with the Department of Defence and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to help veterans participate in ceremonies to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of Kapyong, a key Korean War engagement involving Australian forces, which was also attended by the Prime Minister.

In pursuit of key Government objectives, the department also supported other high-level visits to the ROK, including attendance at G20 meetings by the Prime Minister in November 2010 and Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, Mr Swan, in October and November 2010. We also facilitated visits by Mr Rudd in November 2010 and House of Representatives Speaker, Mr Jenkins, in May 2011.

The department contributed to strengthening trade links with the ROK, Australia’s third-largest goods and services export market. It facilitated Dr Emerson’s visit to the ROK in November 2010 and worked closely with other agencies and industry to provide assistance to exporters of resources and energy. Advocacy work in Canberra and by our embassy in Seoul helped facilitate the signing of an LNG offtake agreement valued at $57.44 billion.

To celebrate the 2011 Australia–Korea Year of Friendship, the department coordinated a year-long cultural program and other activities in the ROK to promote a contemporary image of Australia among Koreans. A high point was the announcement in June 2011 of Australia’s participation in the Expo to be held in Yeosu, ROK from May–August 2012 with the theme ‘The Living Ocean and the Coast: Diversity of Resources and Sustainable Activities’.

FIGURE 8. AUSTRALIA’S TRADE IN GOODS AND SERVICES WITH THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA (a)

FIGURE 8. Australia’s trade in goods and services with the Republic of Korea

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.

Mongolia

The department strengthened bilateral relations with Mongolia by facilitating in February 2011 the first visit to Australia by a Mongolian head of government, Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold. Our embassy in Seoul undertook five visits to Mongolia during the financial year. Working with AusAID and Austrade, the department facilitated Australia’s announcements of an increase in the number of Australia–Mongolia scholarships from 28 to 38, and establishment of an Austrade office in Ulaanbaatar. The department facilitated the signing of MOUs in the fields of vocational training, agriculture, science, and cooperation between Cabinet secretariats, which were signed during the visit. In January 2011, the department facilitated a visit to Mongolia by an Australian parliamentary delegation led by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Jenkins. Mongolia welcomed Australia’s provision of $1.7 million in humanitarian assistance since February 2010 to help recovery from drought, heavy snow and severe frosts.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

The department worked at regional meetings, such as the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum, to urge the DPRK to abandon its nuclear-weapons program, return to full compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and comply fully with its international obligations and commitments. We also supported efforts to discourage the proliferation of prohibited technologies, including nuclear and ballistic missile technology. We continue to implement sanctions. Australia urged a strong response from the international community to the DPRK’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010, which killed and injured armed forces personnel and civilians. During his visit to the DPRK in May 2011, our Ambassador conveyed Australia’s concerns over the DPRK’s nuclear program and the deterioration of the security situation on the Korean peninsula. The department continued to raise Australia’s concerns about the human rights situation in the DPRK, through our Ambassador and at multilateral forums.

Outlook

The department will work with North Asian partners to promote regional stability and security. By building on existing cooperative arrangements and bilateral dialogues, the department will strengthen Australia’s strategic engagement in the North Asian region.

We will advocate for our interests on major international priorities for Australia, such as climate change, global financial governance, regional architecture and nuclear non-proliferation, with these governments, both bilaterally and in key forums such as the EAS and the G20. We will work with regional partners and the United States to encourage a negotiated settlement of the DPRK nuclear issue.

The department will promote Australia’s economic interests in North Asian markets through our advocacy and the department will continue to lead FTA negotiations with China, Japan and the ROK.

The department will organise the inaugural Global China Dialogue on the Gold Coast in February 2012. The Dialogue will bring together leading academic, business and opinion makers to discuss the rise of China.

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