Feb 17, 2012


As China’s regional influence has grown in recent years some have asked if Australia is taking its relationship with Japan for granted. [1] Although the media continues to focus on China’s importance to Australia, several recent studies have observed that the view that the significance of the Australia –Japan relationship is declining is wrong. The relationship is becoming increasingly more diverse and both governments are committed to further strengthening the bilateral ties. [2] Comments that more recently the politico-security dimension of the relationship has come to the fore and uncertainty over the current security environment is leading both governments to expand the relationship beyond the traditional trade and investment base seem to ignore the fact that the relationship is already known for its diversity. [3] The most common theme for any examination of the Australia-Japan relationship is the significance of past imports, exports and investment.

However, there have been important developments in many other areas in recent years, as indicated by the following examples.

Australia-Japan negotiations on a Preferential Trade Agreement
A Joint Study for Enhancing Economic Relations between Japan and Australia, including the Feasibility or Pros and Cons of a Free Trade Agreement (Study Group) was released in December 2006. The Study Group concluded that a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) would provide considerable benefits for both countries but noted that there were sensitivities on both sides, particularly agriculture in the case of Japan. The first round of negotiations was held in April 2007.
All goods and services have been considered at the negotiations including agricultural and industrial products, services and e-commerce. Japan and Australia do not usually disclose full details of discussions on individual issues. However, at the twelfth round in February 2011 Japan was described as showing renewed enthusiasm and Prime Minister Noda has subsequently announced his government’s intention to proceed with negotiations on an FTA with Australia [4]
At the thirteenth round of negotiations in Canberra in late December 2011 discussions continued on several issues including market access for trade in goods and technical barriers to trade. The fourteenth round began in Tokyo on 14 February 2012 when the focus is understood to have been on trade in goods and services, investment, energy and mineral resources and food supply.

Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute
The Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (CCS) is a member based international organisation established by the Australian Government in 2009 to foster cooperation on carbon capture and storage projects and technologies. It now has over 320 members including nearly 30 from Japan. Japan is represented on the board of the CCS and its Tokyo office was opened in September 2011.

*Japan has recognized that an increased degree of cooperation with other nations in the Asia Pacific region is necessary to secure peace and stability and it is committed to strengthening its security relationship with Australia [5] A Japan-Australia Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation was finalised in 2007 and an updated Memorandum on Defence Cooperation in 2008. An Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement was signed in May 2010. This agreement sets a framework for the reciprocal provision of services and supplies between the Self-Defense Forces of Japan and the Australian Defence Force during such activities as training, United Nations Peace Keeping Operations and disaster relief operations. The two countries also hold regular defence and foreign affairs Ministerial Consultations.

Most Australian universities have a range of formal and informal arrangements with Japanese universities involving student and staff exchanges and many have internship arrangements with organisations in Japan. There are 658 sister school arrangements between Japan and Australia and about 12,000 students from Japan are undertaking study in Australia at schools, higher education institutions and private colleges.
Japan-Australia regulatory cooperation
There is a close working relationship between the Australia Building Codes Board (ABCB) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Japan. This has resulted in a range of regulatory reform initiatives and enabled the ABCB to supply Australian industry with information on building regulations in Japan and issues related to market issues.

Research collaboration
Another important aspect of the relationship which does not receive much publicity is the collaboration in science and technology. The Australia-Japan Agreement on Cooperation in Research and Development in Science and Technology came into force in 1980 and since then there have been many hundreds of joint research projects, collaboration and exchanges in most areas of science and technology under many different government, private sector and academic programs in both Australia and Japan. For example, there is considerable collaboration between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and other research organisations and Australian universities and research organisations and universities in Japan. Recent examples include an agreement between the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, Japan This will allow Australian scientists to use top class facilities in Japan; and in February 2012, eight Japanese researchers will visit Australia under the Australia-Japan Emerging Research Leaders Exchange Program to spend time at Australian research institutions related to health, nanotechnology, new materials and information and information and communications technology. Another important example is the strong link between the Australian Academy of Science and the Japan Science and Technology Agency.

Next .............
Of course the above examples represent only a very small sample of the less publicised areas of the relationship which also include initiatives related to tourism, sister city arrangements, bureaucratic exchanges, cultural exchanges, ministerial meetings and collaborative aid projects in third countries. There are more than 70 bilateral arrangements at treaty level between Australia and Japan.

On 28 September 2011 the Australian Prime Minister commissioned a White Paper on the Asian Century. This is the latest in a long line of government and academic reviews and reports on Australia’s relationship with Asia and Japan. The White Paper is due to be completed by mid-2012 and will include consideration of the current and likely future course of economic, political and strategic change in key Asian countries including Japan.

1 For example, Heazle M and O’Neil A
2 Sato S, page 10
3 Outcomes Paper, page 2
4 Sato S, page 5
5 Sato S, page 6

Main references
Australia in the Asian Century Issues Paper, Australia in the Asian Century Task Force, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, December 2011

Australia-Japan Free Trade Agreement, Thirteenth Negotiating Round, Newsletter Update 13, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 18 January 2012

Heazle M and O’Neil A, Is Australia taking Japan for granted? The Interpreter, Lowy Institute for International Policy, 17 September 2011
Japanese researchers to visit Australia, press release, Australian Embassy, Tokyo, 10 August 2011

Outcomes Paper, Overcoming Misconceptions in Australia-Japan Relations, Brisbane, 18-19 August 2011

Sato S, Ambassador of Japan to Australia, The Japan-Australia relationship: Optimism through adversity and the promise of the future, presentation to National Security Institute, University of Canberra, 30 September 2011

Stockall R, Australia-Japan Negotiations on a Preferential Trade Agreement, Japan Spotlight, July/August 2011