Australia urged to ramp up ties with Japan

·2-min read

Australia needs to ramp up its already strong ties with Japan in the face of a dramatically changing geopolitical environment, a leading expert on the relationship between the two countries says.

Associate Professor Shiro Armstrong, director of the Australian National University Australia-Japan Research Centre also says there are rapidly accelerating economic, environmental and social changes in both countries.

"Japan is Australia's benchmark relationship in Asia," Prof Armstrong says.

"It is the world's third-largest economy, Australia's second-largest source of investment and until a fall in commodity trade in 2020, was Australia's second-largest trading partner."

In a new report, Reimagining the Japan Relationship, he says a key challenge both countries will need to solve in partnership is how to address climate change and meet future energy needs.

Australia supplies two thirds of Japan's key industrial materials and close to one-third of its entire energy needs.

Prof Armstrong says the structure of this trade will have to change fundamentally, as Australia and Japan decarbonise their economies.

"The energy and demographic transitions under way in both countries drive the agenda that is needed to transform the bilateral relationship and its regional and international roles," he says.

He says more than 300 organisations and individuals were consulted in preparing this report and its recommendations.

"There is huge interest in Japan in the community, not just as a trade partner and tourist destination but strategically, as we manage a more uncertain international environment," he says.

Among the report's key recommendations:

* A joint Australia-Japan energy initiative that brings together government, industry, experts and stakeholder groups to accelerate and facilitate the energy transition.

* Broadening and expanding the traditional definition of "most-favoured nation" status to Japan. For example, granting similar working visa access to Japan as Australia may grant to the UK.

* Initiating Dialogues for Change that involve business, government, academia and community leaders focused on gender diversity and the movement of people.

* A Joint Australia-Japan Study by experts to frame the agenda for comprehensive security in the region.

* Expanding the New Colombo Plan to include a postgraduate stream.

* Investing in exchanges and study programs, leveraging the 107 sister city relationships and 553 sister school relationships.

* Introducing and rewarding qualifications in Japan-literacy and experience in the federal and state public service and industry.

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