Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of the Prime Minister the Hon John Howard MP joint press conference with His Excellency Mr Junichiro Koizumi - Prime Minister of Japan, Parliament House, Canberra.

Download PDFDownload PDF

1 May 2002





Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen. The Prime Minister of Japan and I and my senior colleagues have had lengthy discussions this morning. The relationship between Australia and Japan is a very close, diverse, and from both countries’ point of view an extremely important relationship. Despite its strength we in Australia believe, to use a phrase of my Foreign Minister at the discussion this morning, we believe that we should be ambitious about the future of the relationship and in that context we discussed the security interests both of us have in the region. Australia welcomes warmly Japan’s contribution of some hundreds of engineers in East Timor, and we see that kind of security involvement by Japan in the region in an extremely positive light not only given the size of Japan and strength of Japan in the region and in the world, but also given the common values that Australia and Japan have. And I repeated Australia’s support for Japan becoming a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations.

The economic and trade relationship of course is very important. Japan for decades has been Australia’s best customer and I suspect that that will continue. I hope it does for many decades into the future. I want to thank the business councils of the two countries, chaired respectively by Mr Morgan of Australia and Mr Murofushi of Japan for the contribution they have made to deepen the economic ties between our two societies.

We both want to see even deeper economic and trade relationships. Both the Prime Minister and I see the ultimate goal of a free trade agreement between our two countries as something to be worked towards. It will not be easy, it will need to be taken step by step. There are difficulties. Clearly an issue such as agriculture is one of those matters that will need to be worked through carefully. But both of us see it as a desirable goal to work towards and we have specifically agreed that the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Dr Ashton Calvert and his Vice Minister counterpart from Japan will meet soon to discuss the



framework for discussions and negotiations about future and closer economic and trade relationships. It will not be a quickly achieved goal but it is a goal worth working towards.

Finally can I say that the most important thing in the end about our relationship with Japan is that we have common values and common beliefs and practices. We are both liberal democracies. We have cooperated very closely in the fight against terrorism. We see the security relationship between our two countries, vis a vis the United States, as extremely important and we again endorse the value of a trilateral security dialogue at a senior level - Vice Minister, Foreign Affairs head level - between Australia, Japan and the United States. But can I finally say to the Prime Minister how delighted I am on a personal basis for him to be here in Australia. He’s been to Australia before on a number of occasions but this is his first visit as Prime Minister. He is very very warmly welcome and it’s nice to be able to return some of the gracious hospitality that he extended to me in Tokyo last August.

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: [Through Translator] I was greeted by a very warm welcome extended by Prime Minister Howard as well as the distinguished representatives of the Australian Government and I’m very grateful. The tete-a-tete meeting with Prime Minister Howard I believe was most candid and very useful. I explained to him about Japan’s reforms. However fraught with difficulties they may be I shall carry through such reforms and Mr Howard has with strong determination carried forward his reforms. I have also been faced with numerous difficulties but my affection at these reforms and determination to work through reforms in Japan have been proceeding smoothly and I would like to further accelerate the pace without relaxing the rein on reforms. So I would like to further carry out reforms to contribute to the revitalisation of the Japanese economy. And I received very encouraging support from Prime Minister Howard.

Japan and Australia share common values especially democracy, freedom, and as such we fight together against terrorism and are together cooperating for the peace and stability in East Timor. So through our mutual cooperations we’re making significant contributions and I highly, or we the Government of Japan, highly value the significant contributions being made by Australia.

In January this year I delivered a speech in Singapore and at that time I spoke of an East Asian community that acts together and advances together as the future orientation we should pursue. In considering the further development and stability of the East Asian region in the future I believe the core, the central role that Australia as a core member of that community can play, would be very significant. So in the future I would hope that we shall be able to build on concrete results which we’ll be achieving and further strengthen the cooperation between Japan and Australia. And Prime Minister Howard expressed his concurrence. I believe that Japan and Australia in a creative partnership need to cooperate and with that common perception we should approach numerous issues such as WTO, APEC, environmental issues, and security issues and what not. It will help further strengthen our partnership in these areas as well. Between Japan and Australia of course we find numerous differences and in many respects we are mutually complementary. I believe we shall be seeing expanding economic cooperation between our two countries and we shall explore all options for strengthening economic relations between our two countries. And I believe we saw eye to eye on this score as well. So it was a very useful and a very good meeting and I am most gratified and I look forward to further growing this frankly relationship of mutual trust and contribute to our bilateral relations. Once again thank you very much indeed for a very warm welcome. Thank you.



Any questions?


Craig Skehan from the Sydney Morning Herald. My question is both to Mr Koizumi and to Mr Howard. The Australian Prime Minister referred to a new trilateral security dialogue. How would that work? Would it be based on an annual forum? What sort of issues would be considered? Do you expect adverse reaction from China given some of its past comments on this matter?

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: [Through Translator] On security, I consider our relations with Australia very important. That is what I told Prime Minister Howard. Especially today in East Timor we highly appreciate the signficant contributions that Australia has been making to the independence of East Timor and its further development toward nation building. And not just in East Timor, but more broadly, we would like to cooperate with Australia in the area of security although each of our countries would have their different roles to play. You also referred to China. Of course we shall continue to pay consideration to our relations with neighbouring countries but while doing so, in the area of military cooperation, of course we are aware Japan has serious constraints. In the area of military cooperation I believe Japan can play a role that is different from the roles that other countries would play. On this and other issues I would like to continue to exchange views. Both our countries place emphasis on our security relations with the United States but I believe in our relations, in our security relations with the United States, we each have differences. However I believe whilst realising those different roles, I am sure we each have different roles and contributions we can make to regional security.


Prime Minister Howard referred earlier to a FTA. I wonder what sort of views you exchanged in your meeting? I also understand you agreed to launch high level consultations at the sub-cabinet level. I wonder what specific issues you are going to discuss in that. Foreign agricultural issues?

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: [Through Translator] On FTA, in my one on one meeting with Prime Minister Howard we did exchange views on that. In terms of our economic cooperation bilaterally, setting our sight on future economic linkages, I believe we should at different levels, at the sub-cabinet level, at working level, at senior working level and so on, I think it is important that we continue to build on these dialogues and consultations. In the agricultural area, indeed there are numerous and difficult issues. But I believe these are not insurmountable problems. But to begin with we have to further grow the good relations we have between our two countries and through consultations we should try to work towards a free trade agreement in the longer term. So it is important that we carry out our mutual consultations on the basis of good relations and that we all do see expanding economic relations between our two countries. We should build on these concrete results so that at the end of the day in the future we shall be able to cooperate towards the objective of a Free Trade Agreement at the end of the road.



Prime Minister Howard, I’d just like to follow up the question from Craig Skehan. You mentioned a trilateral security dialogue - US, Australia, Japan. What would that entail?


What is contemplated is not at this stage and perhaps not in the immediate or medium term future a dialogue not at what we would call a ministerial level, but at a very senior officials level. As to the precise form and shape of it, that is something that is to be further discussed but it is a concept that we are positive about and was referred to positively in my discussion with the Prime Minister. The earlier question was asked in the context of China. We don’t see it having negative connotations. It is not designed in any negative sense so far as China is concerned. That is to misread it. It is merely a natural expression of the fact that we have a number of security interests in common in the region and it should not be seen beyond that.


Tony Walker, Financial Review. Two questions, one to Mr Howard and one to Mr Koizumi. Mr Howard, why was a specific reference to a Free Trade Agreement left out of the communique and its appendix. And to Mr Koizumi, what guarantees do we have of Japanese commitment to the negotiation of a Free Trade Agreement if there is indeed no specific reference in the communique and your own political future may not be entirely secure.


Well if I can answer the first question. The language of the communique was so broad and so generic it can mean everything including the discussion of a Free Trade Agreement. Communiques are important but I think the spoken word of political leaders at news conferences is just as important.

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: [Through Translator] It is not really important whether it is included in the joint communique or not. Already in numerous areas, we have already seen the progressing economic linkages between Japan and Australia and I think it is important that we build on these results by including FTA in the joint communique. It is not something that can be achieved overnight. It is important that as a long term objective we build on efforts one by one. That is the sort of discussions we had and therefore we do not feel the need to include it in the joint communique. In reality, in various areas we expand our cooperation and we build on the results. That is more important in the shorter term. And that in the longer term should lead to, or may lead to FTA. If it does lead to FTA, that will be most desirable. That is the tone of our discussions.


Prime Minister Koizumi, in your meeting with Prime Minister Howard what sort of comments did you make with regard to Kyoto Protocol and what response did you get from Prime Minister Howard?

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: [Through Translator]


As far as Japan is concerned, we believe that this global warming issue is a matter of great concern. As you can see, the name Kyoto Protocol… the name of a Japanese city is used. And we are proceeding with preparations so that the Kyoto Protocol will be ratified during this session of the Diet. We have been assured that Australia will also strive to be a member of the Kyoto protocol. I expressed this desire of mine.


Can I just say in relation to that, that Japan and Australia have the common objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally. So far as the ratification of Kyoto is concerned Australia’s position is that we believe the inclusion of the United States and developing countries is important if you are to have a really comprehensive global agreement on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. That will not prevent Australia and Japan from working together, even though we do have some differences in relation to the Kyoto agreement which are understood and respected and both sides.


Tim Colebatch from the Age Newspaper, my question is to Mr Koizumi. Do you see in the long term a future in which Japanese farmers will not need subsidies to compete with the rest of the world? And if so, what kind of reforms are needed to bring that about?

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: [Through Translator] Agricultural issue is indeed a very great issue for Japan. Also when we look to the future of Japan/Australia relations I believe it is an issue that Australia is most interested in. Japan is the world’s largest net agricultural importer. If you look at petroleum more than 90 per cent of petroleum energy that Japan uses is imported. If you look at the food sector, the population of the world is going to increase and former food exporters have now turned to importers. Now Japan has a food self-sufficiency level of 40 per cent or perhaps less. US, Europe, probably Australia as well have 100 per cent self sufficiency. Japan is the largest net importer of foodstuffs and on this food issue we see that there are more and more countries turning from exporters into importers and population around the world is continuing to grow. Looking at this reality, Japan feels it is necessary for the Japanese themselves to try and supply food to themselves as well. So the thinking on this, the issue of agricultural imports and the question of improving Japan’s food self-sufficiency are two issues that we need to work together on and that indeed is a part Japan’s major reform issues. Of course where our country has had different circumstances but bearing these points in mind we should try to promote trade liberalisation and strengthen economic linkages between our two countries and engage in dialogue with each other.