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Smith must get Japanese relationship back on track.



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Wed, 7th May 2008 SMITH MUST GET JAPANESE RELATIONSHIP BACK ON TRACK

The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs (to 22 September 2008)

Despite his denials, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith's trip to Japan must have one goal - the restoration of Australia's important relationship with Japan.

''Mr Smith needs to make a big effort in Japan to combat the impression that has been created that the Rudd Government has a China bias,'' the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Andrew Robb AO MP, said today.

''Since the election of the Rudd Government they have offended and confused the Japanese and damaged Australia's standing.

''They have: Sent a gun boat after the Japanese whaling fleet as one of its first actions, without picking up the phone to Mr Fukuda to explain Australia's case against whaling.

Announced the abandonment of the quadrilateral talks with the US, India and Japan at a press conference with the Chinese Foreign Minister after the Foreign Minister failed to raise the issue in talks with Japanese officials (and instead only raised it in a media conference while in Japan)

Cut funding for the team negotiating the Japanese-Australia Free Trade Agreement

And left Japan - our largest trading partner - off Mr Rudd's 17-day, five nation, three country, round-the-world trip while spending four days in China, which gave offence to an ally and major trading partner.

''The actions that Mr Smith must take towards Japan - our closest friend in Asia - must be only the start of the Government providing a balanced approach to the five major powers in the Asia-Pacific region; Japan, Indonesia, India, China and the United States.

''Already, in less than six months the perceived China-bias of the Rudd Government has caused surprise and concern in three of these five key relationships; Japan, Indonesia and India.

''The Howard Government demonstrated that it was possible to grow all of these relationships concurrently.

''It is time for the Rudd Government to prove they can manage all of Australia's relationships without offending others''.