Australia and Japan: A Long History and Future of Unique Vision

Dec 20, 2019

From the Commerce Agreement of 1957 the Australia-Japan economic relationship of trade and investment and collaboration has been characterized by visionary ambitions and unique solutions that created enormous wealth for both countries.


In the 1960s Japanese trading companies, steel makers and utilities joined with Australian miners of iron ore and coal to create the successful model of foundation equity investment in projects, coupled with long-term contracts. This leading edge solution to the problem of financing massive capital projects helped to create these industries in Australia and support the Japanese miracle economy for three decades.


In the 1980s the same approach was implemented by Japanese trading companies, power companies and Australian gas producers to create the LNG export industry in Australia, one of the largest in the world now. Over time, the iron ore, coal and LNG sectors in Australia would become the greatest areas of technological innovation, IT and automation.


Recently the innovative vision of this partnership is being repeated in the development of the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain project based in Victoria. The HESC will use the huge reserves of brown coal in the Latrobe Valley as the key input to create a world first pilot project to produce, liquefy and transport liquefied hydrogen to Japan to be used as a clean energy source in transportation, energy storage and power generation. The vision of the HESC involves the transformation of brown coal into a clean energy source by creating innovative technological and manufacturing solutions to difficult problems by the partnership of Japanese and Australian companies and Governments.


On a smaller scale but with enormous potential, partnerships are being formed in newly emerging technologies through the Foundation for Australia-Japan Studies at the University of Tokyo. FAJS supports innovative collaborations between Australian and Japanese Universities and private sector companies, using the complementary expertise of each sector in rare fashion. For example, the University of Western Australia and Sysmex Corporation of Japan are developing a new diagnostic tool for various types of cancers. The CSIRO and Kumamoto University are working on 3D printing of new types of metal alloys.

Author: Manuel Panagiotopoulos

Managing Director, Australian and Japanese Economic Intelligence