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Foreign and trade policy white paper

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FA106 28 A ugust 1997


The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Mr Fischer, today released Australia’s first White Paper on Foreign and Trade Policy.

The White Paper sets out the principles and priorities of the Government’s foreign affairs and trade policy. It also examines the key international challenges facing Australia over the next fifteen years.

The White Paper puts the national interests of Australia squarely at the centre of Australian foreign and trade policy.

Its fundamental message is that in all that it does in foreign and trade policy the Government will apply a basic test of national interest: how does it advance the security of Australia and the jobs and standard of living of the Australian people.

The White Paper identifies globalisation and the continuing economic rise of East Asia as the two most profound influences on Australian foreign and trade policy over the next fifteen years. .

It emphasises that Australia faces a much more competitive global trading and investment environment, a changing strategic environment, as well as uncertainties in some key regional countries.

As the countries o f East Asia grow, Australia's relative economic standing in the region will change. Australia will have to work hard and creatively to advance its strategic and economic interests, and to influence the regional agenda.

The White Paper sets out the broad framework for Australia to meet these challenges. It represents a significant rearticulation and rebalancing of Australian foreign and trade policy.

Its key elements include: .

. a declaration of commitment to the Asia Pacific, and particularly East Asia, as the Government’s highest foreign and trade policy priority;

. an emphasis on bilateral relationships as a means of advancing Australian interests. Strong bilateral relationships are not an alternative to regional and global efforts, but


they form the basic building block of the Government’s foreign and trade policy strategies;

. a more selective approach to Australia’s involvement in multilateral issues, concentrating on areas where Australia’s national interests are closely engaged;

. a recognition of the contribution that trade liberalisation makes to Australia’s standard of living, and the Government’s commitment to a jobs foreign and trade policy;

. strong support for practical measures which advance Australia’s trade interests including through the World Trade Organisation and the free trade and investment objectives of APEC;

. the importance of security policies which embrace a strong national defence capability, the alliance with the United States, expanding bilateral and regional security dialogue, stronger regional security institutions and support for global regimes against weapons of mass destruction;

. the adoption of a whole-of nation framework which recognises that Australia’s international competitiveness in a global economy will be closely linked to a more flexible labour market, investment in research and development, strong education and training systems, good infrastructure and effective savings and taxation policies.

The White Paper emphasises that the Government’s foreign and trade policy objectives will be geared towards exercising leadership on the issues which advance Australia’s economic and strategic interests. This includes ensuring that the economic, strategic and cultural assets of Australia which are identified in the White Paper are properly marshalled and strategically directed.

The White Paper also reflects the Government’s commitment to a foreign and trade policy which the Australian community understands and supports. It recognises that national interests cannot be pursued without regard to the values of the Australian community, including its support for fundamental human rights.

Central to these values is an unqualified commitment to racial equality and to eliminating racial discrimination. This is a moral issue of the first order, and it is fundamental to Australia’s engagement with the region where its vital security and economic interests lie.

An Advisory Panel of eminent Australians in the fields of business, foreign, trade and security policies assisted Mr Downer and Mr Fischer in the preparation of the White Paper. The Advisory Panel formally met with the Ministers on four occasions to give views on the White Paper as it evolved.

The Ministers thanked the members of the Advisory Panel for their work on the White Paper. Their contribution had considerably enhanced the value of the W hite Paper to the Government.

The White Paper will be available from the Department o f Foreign Affairs and Trade (261 3114), AGPS bookshops around Australia and on the Internet via D F A T’s home page or directly at from midday Thursday 28 August.