Opinion by Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs MP
Australia’s prosperity is – more than ever – tied to the fortunes of the highly competitive global economy. Sustaining our strong economic record, 23 years of uninterrupted growth, requires active international engagement.
Today we will launch the Government’s economic diplomacy agenda that will underpin that engagement into the future. Economic diplomacy is about deploying all of Australia’s diplomatic assets to achieve strong economic outcomes for Australia and other nations, particularly those in our region. That means prioritising efforts to liberalise trade, support economic growth, encourage investment and assist business.
Economic diplomacy will drive the work of our portfolio agencies – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Austrade, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) and Tourism Australia. The goal is straightforward – while traditional diplomacy works towards peace, economic diplomacy seeks to build prosperity: for Australia, the region and globally.
Australia has built its prosperity on the back of international trade and investment, and it’s never been more important for our political leaders, diplomats, trade, investment, tourism and aid specialists to ensure that economic outcomes are at the heart of their work.
Economic diplomacy supports wealth creation at home and it also supports regional and global prosperity – through the aid program and our global economic engagement, such as our leadership as G20 President this year.
Successful economic diplomacy requires all government agencies working together, while also in partnership with business, non-government organisations (NGOs), think tanks and the broader Australian community to seize opportunities.
Collaboration and cooperation will be critical for our future success. That’s why we’re launching two portfolio charters today – one with business, the other with State and Territory governments – to guide our engagement.
But what does economic diplomacy mean in practice?
The most obvious example of economic diplomacy at work is the recent conclusion of free trade deals with Japan and Korea, and solid progress towards an agreement with China. Australia leveraged all of our diplomatic resources to conclude these agreements and achieve unprecedented market access to Japan and Korea, injecting billions of dollars into our economies. The agreements are win-win for us and for our trading partners – that’s why trade liberalisation is so important, because of the broad benefits.
Importantly, economic diplomacy is flexible and has its own distinct flavour in every country. Each of our 95 DFAT heads of mission have crafted strategies that will guide their trade, growth, investment and business work, prepared in cooperation with Austrade’s 72 Trade Commissioners and ACIAR, Tourism Australia and EFIC’s global networks.
In Indonesia, Australia’s agricultural expertise is a central to our economic diplomacy efforts – we are working to boost our own agricultural exports, while ACIAR programs help increase food production and quality in Indonesia.
And in the Pacific, economic diplomacy looks different again –in partnership with Westpac and ANZ, we are exploring ways to improve access to financial products and literacy in the region.
In emerging markets such as Mongolia, the Australian Government is helping to increase access for Australian mining investors and using our aid program to assist with capacity building in governance and the regulatory environment in this sector, so that Mongolians capture the benefits of development. In India, the government is promoting Australia as a preferred leisure destination for India’s burgeoning middle class.
Economic growth guides our G20 Presidency agenda, and as the real driver of poverty elimination we’ve placed it at the heart of Australia’s aid program.
Equally important is attracting inward investment to enable the Australian economy to continue to grow, to play to our strengths in building new industries, and to create jobs. The government is doing its part to create the right conditions here at home to enable us to compete internationally and become a destination of choice for international business and investment. We’re reducing the debt, cutting taxes, eliminating red tape and streamlining regulation to make Australia an easy, efficient place to do business.
Economic diplomacy is an ambitious and dynamic policy, putting strong economic outcomes at the centre of our foreign, trade, investment, tourism and development policy work. We’re confident our efforts will strengthen Australia’s prosperity, as it will also support greater prosperity in our region and beyond.
Australia’s business community, think tanks, NGOs and the broader community are an integral part of our economic diplomacy efforts. Working together in partnership has the potential to bring greater benefits to Australians and to some of the poorest people on earth.