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Relations with Japan

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M77 23 November 1976


Speech by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrew Peacock, to the Australia — Japan Society, Brisbane on 23 November 1976.

There has been a disposition in Australia to congratulate ourselves pn the relationship which, in a generation, we have built up with Japan. In the events of the past week we have seen not so much what has been achieved but how much remains to be done. In shaking complacency in both countries that short sharp knock has

served a purpose.

There is no need to remind you of the key importance to Australia of our relations with Japan. The Japan with which we must live and deal is of singular importance to the Australian economy, and to the prospects and well-being of every Australian. On a per capita basis our economic dependence on Japan is already greater than that of any of the other industrialised democracies. The flow of trade between Australia and Japan is enormous and now ranks seventh in the world. More than this, however, Japan

is a major power and of considerable significance in setting the regional and, indeed, the global environment, political as well as economic, ideological as well as strategic, in which Australia must work out its destiny.

The hard core of our relationship with Japan is, however, economic. We are fortunate to hold such extensive commercial interests in common. Those interests have contributed greatly to the prosperity of both countries,

but they remain a creature subject to the laws of supply and demand. We recognise this and the Japanese recognise this. It is that recognition which, especially in recent

years, has led Governments and people on both sides to seek a less brittle basis for relations than the fluctuations of the market place and the temporary requirements of economic expediency. Not because the basis is bad, but because it

is too important to both of us to be put at risk in the hard bargaining inseparable from sound commerce.


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Important stress has been placed on the need to extend and strengthen relations beyond the purely economic„ Imaginative initiatives have been taken both on a government plane and at a private level to fill out a strategy designed over the longer term to lend stability, new substance and . . warmth to the relationship we have; and to provide a

framework within which the vast dissimilarities that divide Australians and Japanese in outlook, national preoccupation, in social, intellectual and cultural traditions can be attacked and overcome.

Language is one of the first and most formidable barriers we face. So far most of the language learning effort has been made by Japan. We Australians are both fortunate and unfortunate in having as our native tongue the most widely spoken of international languages; and we are

in consequence among the most insular of peoples in our language capabilities.

A decade ago, Japanese was taught in a handful of schools and two universities to fewer than a hundred Australians. By 1975, however, more than seven thousand Australians were learning it, in nearly a hundred schools and tertiary institutions, representing a percentage of the population higher than in any other country with the

exception of Japan itself.

Although the expansion of language teaching is encouraging, there is still much to be done to improve standards, and to extend other aspects of Japanese studies.

Though only a small proportion of people will come to speak Japanese, it is open to every Australian to learn something of Japan.

There is also a need for greater contact between individuals from each society and more travel between the two countries. There has been some increase over the last twenty years, but not a spectacular one. There is currently an annual exchange of approximately 15,000 tourists in each direction. I would suggest that, in addition to thinking about increasing the volume of tourist contact, we should also give some thought to improving its quality. Unfortunately, even when Australians and Japanese see each other there is often no meeting of minds. They see each other from behind the tinted windows of tourist buses, or within the security of groups of their fellow countrymen.

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As long as this continues to be the case the value of tourist exchanges must be limited. I see it as a challenge to organisations such as your own to devise programs that enhance the level of contact and understanding.

The benefits which should flow from increasing the volume of contacts between Japan and Australia will take a generation or two to become evident. If quick progress is to be achieved we shall need as well to look for 'other things. Particular emphasis should be placed on exchanges

between young people, whose ideas are less likely to be inflexible and prejudiced than those of their elders, expecially if such young people can be sent to Japan or brought to Australia at ages when they are impressionable„ To some extent we have already begun to move in these directions both through privately-sponsored exchanges (by such bodies

as the Australia-Japan Business Cooperation Committee, Rotary International, the Lions Organisation, the Myer Foundation and the Science Scholars Scheme arranged by Sydney University) and through those promoted by each Government. But we will need a good deal more.

Exchanges have also taken place between outstanding figures in special fields in which visits can be expected to make a particular impact. The popularity of Hiroyuki Iwaki. as conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the interest which his appointment aroused in Japan is an outstanding example = On the Australian side, there was the visit to Japan last year of Joan Sutherland, the regular visits which the prominent golfers, Peter Thomson and Graham Marsh, make to Japan, and the appointment of Ken Rosewall as coach of the Japanese Davis Cup.Team. Sport

is something for which Australia is well-known internationally and it earns us much goodwill. ' .

We need, moreover, an increase in the quantity, quality and range of news reporting in both directions, and more and better programs about each, other on television. There is a big contribution to be made by instituting in

each country regular news reports and good television coverage of the other. Your organisation could be helping to create the demand that could lead to this in Australia.'

To get away from the ad hoc approach of the past, this Government has established a broad and rational frame­ work for promoting the kind of relationship with Japan that Australia needs. The principal elements of that framework

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are the Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, signed by the Australian and Japanese Prime Ministers in June, the Cultural Agreement, ratified in February, and the Australia/ Japan Foundation, established by Act of Parliament in May.

The Treaty, the first of its kind that Australia has concluded with any country, has three essential purposes:

. it acknowledges formally the friendship, community of interests and interdependence that exist':: between Australia and Japan and establishes a broad framework of cooperation, including new agreements where necessary, in specific areas;

. it recognises the mutual interest of both countries in each being a stable and reliable supplier to and market for the other; and

. it prescribes, on a mutual basis, specific standards of treatment to be accorded each other's citizens and companies as regards their entry and stay and business and professional activities, including investment.

The Treaty will enter into force thirty days after ratification which, on Japan's part, requires approval by the NationalcDiet»- We understand that such approval can be expected next year. I do not regard it, by any means, as stillborn?, as in the last few days some sections

of the press have alleged. For one thing, the value of the Treaty cannot be~ fully assessed’ until it has entered into force, and this is especially true of those articles which require specific action by either Government. For

another thing, I believe the general principles of reliability in commercial relations that are set out in the Treaty will help in the long term to weld a truly cooperative relationship , provided both sides honour 'the spifcit as well as the letter

of the Treaty.

The Cultural Agreement is a general document which does not of itself ordain any specific exchanges or programs but provides the guidelines within which exchanges can develop and take place in an orderly and balanced way.

The work of the Foundation will be specifically directed towards "deepening and strengthening Australian- Japanese relations by fostering better understanding and

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greater tolerance thrbpgh people-to-people contacts and through research and other projects designed to elucidate the character, culture and outlook of the two peoples". The Foundation, which operates separately from and.supplementary

to arrangements under the Cultural Agreement, is administered by a National Council, the members of which are drawn from key elements in Australian society such as business, the trade unions, the universities, the artisticrworld and

government. The Council has discretion to decide what projects the Foundation should sponsor, but it holds itself open both to donations and to suggestions from any section of the Australian community.

But if recent events have taught us anything they have taught us that it will not be sufficient only to work towards broader contact and deeper understanding of our social and cultural differences - Those aims are of very

considerable importance. As they are achieved they will greatly reinforce our relationship. So long, however, as commerce remains our main link with Japan, it is inevitable that the character of our commercial dealings will colour relations as a whole. .

The time has come, therefore, to flesh out the economic relationship and the consultative framework that exists. The framework should be designed to ensure a more certain economic relationship through closer understanding

in each country of the basis for the other9 s economic . policies, priorities, and predccupations. V

An instrument is already to hand in the Australia-Japan Ministerial Committee established in 1972 by an earlier Liberal-Country Party Government. The Committee is unique in the spectrum of Australia’s international relations. It comprises several senior Ministers from each country who meet at regular intervals, under the chairmanship of the respective "Ministers for Foreign Affairs, to. review key aspects of Australian/Japanese relations and promote

courses for their future development. The Committee has continued to .flourish and we are considering another meeting early next year.

There are also the regular consultations that have been instituted at the level of officials between the Departments responsible in each country for Foreign Affairs, Trade, National Resources, Primary and Secondary Industry.

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It should not be an impossible task, with goodwill on both sides, to develop habits of consultation and policy interchange in these bodies which, as a first step, give effect to the principle that the burden in difficult economic times should be equally shared by both countries; and, as a second step, seek to reduce if not eliminate

the kind of abrupt and arbitrary actions that cause dismay, dislocation and resentment.

These are not purposes we can achieve on our own. They will take time to achieve just as the fulfilment of our aims in other areas of our relations with Japan will take time to achieve. They will require the full and

sympathetic cooperation of Japan.

What I have had to say will confirm that the Government and your Society share in common a,desire to see stable and strong relations between Australia!., and Japan. My Department and I are working actively to consolidate

relations at the Government level and to reduce the scope for disagreement. We also seek to foster a whole range of activity to improve perceptions in one country of the other. It is for you to continue the, steady work that you have been doing within your Society and with counter-part organisations

in Japan to help build the kind of attitudes in busihess,..-...i;s circles and among the public of both countries which will enable relations between" Australia and Japan to withstand short-term pressures and gain the maximum benefits from

long-term cooperation,.,.