Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have committed to strengthen defense ties and pursue one of the world’s largest trade deals — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — under threat by United States President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to withdraw from it.
Late Saturday afternoon, Turnbull and Abe met at Australia’s official prime ministerial residence in Sydney, Kirribilli House, to discuss trade and strengthen ties within the Asia-Pacific region, in the face of what their countries consider an increasingly assertive China in the South China Sea.
After the meeting, both Turnbull and Abe spoke of their desire for “enhanced co-ordination” on issues including activity in the South China Sea and the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
“Our meeting has reinforced that the Japan and Australia relationship is truly a very special strategic partnership,” Turnbull said.
“Australia is invested in Japan’s success as Japan is invested in ours.”
Standing beside Abe outside Kirribilli House, Turnbull said the joint signing of a revised defense pact will “improve the capacity of our defense forces to provide each other with the logistical support during exercises operations and other activities”.
“We are working towards concluding a reciprocal access agreement this year to also make it easier for our respective defense forces to conduct joint visits and exercises,” News Corp reports Turnbull saying.
“The key focus of our discussions were strategic and economic,” Turnbull added. “We confirm our commitment to the rule of law, free trade, open markets in our region — the foundation upon which our prosperity and that of billions of other people in our region depends.”
The new agreement means that for the first time the Australian defense force will soon be able to supply ammunition to Japan’s military.
Prior to this, Australia’s defense forces could only supply fuel and some limited materials to their Japanese counterparts during peacekeeping and disaster relief activities.
Speaking through a translator, Abe said both leaders were committed to ensuring the 12-country TPP trade deal comes into effect.
“On the economic front we agreed that we should demonstrate anew the importance of free trade,” 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].”
Abe, who had previously said the TPP would be meaningless without the U.S., underlined that both countries also agreed to maintain “solid cooperation” with the Trump administration.
Sky News reports that both prime ministers expressed optimism that the TPP would be signed by the end of the year.
“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,” Turnbull said.
Abe and his wife Akie — who are on a six-day diplomatic tour which also takes in the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam — arrived in Sydney on Friday night. They are due to depart Sunday.