detail - Regional Programme Australia and the Pacific
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MP Volkmar Klein, Chairman of the Germany-Australia-New Zealand Parliamentary Friendship Group, opened the event by introducing the topic in its wider political context. He stated that the Brexit currently posed the biggest economic challenge for the EU and that it would have future ramifications for trade relations worldwide. Accordingly, for committed Europeans, Brexit came as a big shock, but it was encouraging to see how positive the responses to the election of the French President Macron, a clear supporter of Europe, had been. Mr Klein emphasised that stable and trusting relations between like-minded nations were of supreme importance in these politically tumultuous times. Against this background, it was crucial to strengthen German-Australian trade relations even further. He concluded that the implementation of recommendations by the the German-Australian Advisory Group was well underway, providing important impetus for this cooperation.
Mr Frank Priess, Deputy Head of the Department for European and International Cooperation at the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation, highlighted in his speech the importance of the European Union as a guarantor of peace, prosperity and stability. He urged that especially in times of rising populism and numerous international crises, these values had to be defended at all costs. Populist parties und movements worldwide oppose globalisation and free trade, and offer oversimplified solutions and reductionist answers to the pressing questions of our time, in many cases leading to even greater protectionism and isolation. This can be felt in the trade relations of the Trump administration, with tangible ramifications for Germany and Australia through trade barriers and Trump’s abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The cooperation between Germany and Australia rests on a foundation of shared values and interests, which both countries pursue through joint initiatives such as the G20 and free trade negotiations between the EU and Australia. He outlined how for the Konrad-Adenauer–Foundation, this bilateral dialogue was of such high value that it became the first of all political foundations to open an office in Canberra in March 2017, lead by Dr. Beatrice Gorawantschy.
Dr. Andrew Mackenzie, Honorary Chairman of the German-Australian Chamber of Industry and Commerce and CEO of BHP Billiton, also used the occasion of his speech to highlight the significance of German-Australian cooperation in relation to the shared values that bind the two countries together. He remarked that Australia was observing Europe with great interest, but also some concern as Brexit significantly weakended Great Britain and is threatening to weaken the entire European Union. As a result, Germany and France are becoming increasingly important partners for Australia, and the French election result was indeed welcomed with great relief. He observed that it could be felt the world over that many are disillusioned with the effects of globalisation. He stressed that this should not lead to impulsive reactions that put the blame on the free trade regime, but that instead the problem of inequality originated from an uneven distribution of the wealth generated by free trade, which has to do with the respective social structures of each individual country. He concluded that it was consequently of primary importance to focus on a healthy economic policy.
Together these speeches formed the basis for a stimulating and fruitful discussion on these matters.
Following this dialogue, the Australian delegation meet with German Minister of State, Prof. Dr. Maria Böhmer for a further exchange on these topics.