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Australian PM Hits a Triple in Asia

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott must have come away smiling from his trip through Asia, having strengthened ties with three major players in the region: Japan, South Korea, and China. Impressively, he managed to do it without getting entangled in the recent controversies between the countries. Not bad for a week’s work.

Abbott was warmly received in all three nations. In Japan, he was entertained by the Emperor and was the first foreign leader to address the country’s new National Security Council. He also signed a free-trade agreement and agreed to share military technology with Tokyo, even saying that Japan is a “strong ally” of Australia, which raised more than a few eyebrows back home.

Abbott’s trip to South Korea produced a free-trade agreement that lifts tariffs on many goods, including Australian beef and South Korean cars. As South Korean President Park Geun-hye told him, “I believe Australia is a very precious partner that has closely cooperated on the international stage while sharing fundamental values, and also a traditional ally.” Abbott condemned North Korea in no uncertain terms and assured South Korea of his support while visiting the border between the countries, which he briefly stepped across.

Abbott’s achievement in China might be less concrete than those in Seoul and Tokyo, but it is perhaps more impressive. He arranged with Beijing to hold discussions on a free-trade agreement by the end of the year, which would be China’s first free-trade pact with a developed nation. Abbott said of the Chinese, “We can give them the resource security, the energy security, and above all else, the food security that they rightly crave.”

Upon returning to Australia, Abbott was greeted by headlines declaring that his ruling coalition had slipped behind the opposition in the polls. But his rivals should envy Abbott’s success in forging ties with three countries engaged in Asia’s increasingly dangerous Game of Thrones. Obama should be taking notes for his own upcoming trip to the region.

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  • Chris O’Connell

    China already has a Free Trade Agreement with New Zealand that has been very successful and is widely credited with this countries rapid recovery from the GFC and the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes.

    The South Pacific is a major focus for China and both the Australian and New Zealand economies are getting increasingly dependent on Chinese demand for Australian commodities (iron ore & coal) and New Zealand protein (dairy & meat).

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