detail - Regional Programme Australia and the Pacific
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Under the heading ‘Geoconomics and Sovereignty in the Indo-Pacific: Integration across Geographies’ Minister Tehan gave a keynote speech that focused on increasing areas of convergence between Australian and German/European interests.The Minister highlighted his recent trip to Europe and particularly emphasized the strength and value of the Australia-Germany relationship. His speech drew out key points around the Free Trade Agreements (FTA) between Australia and the UK as well as the EU - which would give Australian producers preferential access to more than 500 million consumers, translating to “more jobs, growth, economic and trade opportunities and innovation in Australia.” He highlighted that in the current strategic climate it was imperative to diversify trade relationships. This way, these FTAs reflect the UK’s and EU’s pivot to the Indo-Pacific and are intended to bring together partners in a changing strategic environment. Besides the significant trade agenda Australia is pursuing with the EU, the Minister highlighted Australia’s commitment as a “reliable, trusted and secure energy partner” that has great interest in energy partnerships with Germany – with hydrogen especially important here. Moreover, Minister Tehan drew attention to the need for well-functioning WTO trade dispute mechanisms and APEC as a crucial platform - not only for further trade liberalisation but also for broader regional problems.
The Minister’s keynote was followed by a Q&A moderated by ASPI’s executive director Peter Jennings, and we were especially delighted to have Sen the Hon Eric Abbetz, Chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee for the Liberal Party at the Australian Senate actively contribute to the discussion. An important conclusion here was that global trade rules are instrumental to prevent a bifurcation of the global economy along a spectrum of democratic versus autocratic systems.
Overall, the event was testament to the growing momentum behind the Australia - Europe relationship, underpinned by shared interests in the Indo- Pacific region. The advancing negotiations for the FTAs between Australia and the EU and the UK demonstrate this, with the historic AUS-UK agreement passing Parliament in-principle right after our discussion – both signaling the importance of the free movement of people, goods and services to liberal democracies. As Minister Tehan said on his recent visit to Europe, “trade creates jobs, it supports economic growth and our standard of living, it promotes international engagement and collaboration and it’s mutually beneficial….”