The prime ministers of Australia and Japan have committed to pursuing the threatened Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and strengthening defence ties.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Sydney on Friday night as part of a four-nation trip intended to boost Japan’s trade and security engagements in the Asia-Pacific region.
After an official meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Kirribilli Houseon Saturday afternoon, Mr Abe said both leaders were committed to ensuring the 12-country TPP trade deal came into effect.
“On the economic front we agreed that we should demonstrate anew the importance of free trade,” Mr Abe said.
“We confirmed that we would coordinate toward the early entry into force of the TPP and the prompt conclusion of the RECP [Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership].”
The commitment came despite US president-elect Donald Trump criticising the TPP as a “potential disaster” for the US and vowing to prioritise withdrawing from the pact.
Mr Abe, who had previously said the TPP would be meaningless without the US, said Japan and Australia also agreed to maintain “solid cooperation” with the Trump administration.
Mr Turnbull said Australia and Japan were “all-weather friends” and reflected on the landmark commerce agreement Mr Abe’s grandfather Kan Abe signed with Australia 60 years ago.
“It is our earnest hope that we’ll continue to see the ratification of the TPP by all 12 countries,” he said.
“In the interim, we’ll work towards being strong advocates of the myriad of advantages that flow and will understand that through the TPP we can overcome the mutual challenges we face.”
Mr Abe was the first foreign leader to meet with the president-elect following the US election.
Leaders commit to strengthening defence ties
Mr Turnbull described the Australia-Japan relationship as “closer and stronger than ever” and announced the Japanese Government had agreed to step up military cooperation with Australia.
The Prime Minister said the two leaders witnessed the signing of an agreement that would improve the capacity of the defence forces to provide each other with logistical support during exercises and operations.
Mr Turnbull said they also agreed to this year focus on finalising an agreement to make it easier for the two countries to conduct joint visits and exercises and continue to work with US forces to strengthen security in the region.
“We will work closely with the incoming administration as we have been to advance the region’s interests and our shared goals,” he said.
“Today, we’ve recommitted to creating, to consolidating a truly dynamic 21st-century relationship. Australia is invested in Japan’s success as Japan is invested in ours.”
Mr Abe said “the extremely meaningful” talks at Kirribilli House would advance the nations’ security interests in the region.
“In a situation where there is increasing uncertainty and nebulousness on the political security and economic scenes, it is important to guard and increase the robustness of the free, open and rules-based international order,” he said.
“It is more necessary than ever before for Japan and Australia, as special strategic partners, to play a leading role for regional peace and prosperity as we both share common values such as freedom, rule of law and democracy.”
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Mr Turnbull said the two countries would also “collaborate even more closely” in sport with a new memorandum of cooperation that would see sporting bodies in the two countries exchange expertise.
It is Mr Abe’s first visit to Australia since Mr Turnbull became Prime Minister.
Mr Abe will visit Indonesia and Vietnam before returning to Japan.