Roundtable with HE Yamagami Shingo
On Tuesday 22 March 2022, the Perth USAsia Centre was honoured to host an exclusive, private roundtable with His Excellency Yamagami Shingo, Ambassador of Japan to Australia. The roundtable offered the opportunity for officials, industry executives, academics, and civil society representatives to have a candid exchange on the rapidly evolving strategic circumstances and economic trends in the Indo-Pacific and European theatres.
A key area for discussion was the unfolding war in Ukraine. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine contravened international law and, therefore, undermined global rules and international stability and prosperity. Russia’s invasion also left no ambiguity about Moscow’s future ambitions for a changed European, and broader global, order.
In fact, what we were seeing was the emergence of a ‘new international order’, one in which the United Nations and other global multilateral organisations were no longer looked to by countries for leadership. Instead, Australia and Japan needed to contribute to building a new regional order, including through minilateral frameworks.
Discussions also touched on the Russia-China relationship and the recent Putin-Xi Summit, at which both leaders declared a ‘no limits’ partnership. Due to Moscow and Beijing’s recent closer alignment, and the parallels being drawn between Ukraine and Taiwan, participants commented that China would be considering the economic and military implications of a military confrontation over Taiwan.
While China had so far opted to provide Russia with implicit support for its invasion, Russia’s actions were clearly not in Beijing’s favour. In fact, the situation in Europe presented China with a unique opportunity: China could change tack and denounce Russia’s activities and, in so doing, greatly enhance its leadership credentials and credibility.
Another topic canvassed was the need for an Indo-Pacific trade pact that encompassed the whole region – something that the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) currently fall short on.
It was asserted the CPTPP is much more than a trade and investment agreement and is strategic in nature, as it ‘locks’ countries into certain standards. Australia and Japan’s current challenge is to consider what qualitative difference they could make to the CPTPP and regional economic integration as a whole.
Turning specifically to Australia-Japan bilateral relations, participants acknowledged Japan’s ranking as one of Australia’s top sources of foreign direct investment. Japan is Australia’s second largest investor in the hydrogen industry and has also invested in major Australian infrastructure projects, including in Western Sydney. With the emergence of Japanese-engineered hydrogen cars and other world-leading innovations, the future looks bright for Japan-Australia cooperation on renewable technologies and decarbonisation.
Roundtable participants approached the discussions with a frankness, respect and warmth that has come to characterise the Australia-Japan relationship. The debate around the table revealed mutual understanding across many issues and underscored Australia and Japan’s shared ambition for deeper and broader cooperation.
In addition to Japanese officials and Perth USAsia Centre board and staff members, the roundtable included representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, WA Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation, Consulate General of Indonesia, INPEX, Chevron, Albemarle Lithium, Mitsubishi Australia, Mitsui & Co., and PricewaterhouseCoopers.