Australian Government coat of arms

Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon Tony Abbott MP

Joint Press Conference, Seoul, South Korea

08 April 2014

Seoul, South Korea

Prime Minister

President of the Republic of Korea

Subjects:

Leaders’ bilateral meeting; Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement; China-Australia Free Trade Agreement negotiations

E&OE

PRESIDENT PARK:

Let me start with a warm welcome to Prime Minister Tony Abbott on his first ever visit to Korea. Today, the Prime Minister and I spoke at length about how to cooperate in ways that would make our relationship even more geared to the future.

First, I’m very delighted with the signing of the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement – a landmark in the evolution of our ties. Australia is a longstanding friend that fought by our side during the Korean War. Our two countries are bound by strategic basic values and shared strategic interests on global issues and our economic complementarities make us exceptionally well placed as partners.

The Korea-Australia FTA is a comprehensive, high level FTA. In addition to having a tangible impact on drawing trade, investment and on expanding jobs and markets, the FTA will help take the full range of our relationship to a higher level, including in social and cultural areas.

Once the FTA enters into force, tariffs on automobiles which account for 25 per cent of Korean exports to Australia will be removed. Investments from Korea valued at below $1 billion will be exempt from Australia’s foreign investment review. Accordingly, our trade and investment with Australia are expected to grow further.

Australia, is to Korea, the top provider of natural resources and Korea’s largest outbound investment destination for resource development. Australia’s forecast to become Korea’s top LNG supplier in the next five years. The Prime Minister and I shared the view that there’s huge untapped potential for cooperating in these resource and energy sectors.

The Prime Minister welcomed the participation of globally competitive and technologically advanced Korean companies in developing Australia’s resources and energy. In this vein, we will further expand cooperation through the involvement of Korean companies in large scale soft coal projects in the state of New South Wales and other iron ore and LNG projects.

The Prime Minister and I noted that a respective policy drives to energise the economy and create jobs by aggressively cutting red tape, have much in common. It was agreed that we would work more closely together in some key creative economy sectors like design, IT software and knowledge services. I’m delighted that our relevant research institutes will be concluding an MOU on sophisticated environmental technology as a first step.

We also shared the view that a rapidly changing regional security landscape lends importance to strengthening foreign policy and security coordination. We decided to further enhance strategic communication making it more comprehensive and multi-layered through the 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministers meeting, strategic dialogue and defence ministerial talks.

I highlighted the importance of defence industrial collaboration in the context of augmenting strategic cooperation in the security realm and expressed a desire to see Korean companies engage with Australia’s defence industries.

We decided in this regard to work more closely together to strengthen defence industrial collaboration going forward.

Moreover, the Prime Minister and I agreed that the vision statement adopted today represents a milestone that maps out the way forward in the area of diplomacy and security and as such carries great significance.

We also concurred that expanding people to people and cultural exchanges are instrumental in sustaining bilateral cooperation. In particular, I asked that the activities of the 150,000 members of the Korean community and the safety of Korean working holiday makers in Australia be given special attention and support by the Australian Government.

We also agreed that next year’s visit of Australian students to Korea as part of Canberra’s new Colombo Plan, aimed at promoting medium and long term cooperation among Asia’s next generation, will offer an opportune occasion to promote friendship and mutual understanding between our future generations.

The Prime Minister and I made it very clear that North Korea’s nuclear development poses a serious threat to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and beyond and that a nuclear-armed North Korea will never be accepted.

I explained to Prime Minister Abbott that the cooperation and support of international partners like Australia are vital to paving the way to an air of unification. The Prime Minister in turn conveyed a staunch support for Seoul’s unification vision and North Korea policy for which I am very grateful.

Lastly, I also thanked the Prime Minister for Canberra’s decision to contribute $5 million for the Global Green Growth Institute and its consent to ratify the GGGI establishment agreement.

Today’s meeting has catalysed the signing of the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement economically, the adoption of the vision statement in the political and security front and the execution of the New Colombo Plan in the sphere of people to people exchange. Hence it could rightly be characterised as substantive, mutually beneficial and hugely productive.

I’m confident that our meeting today will further deepen our cooperative ties.

Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER:

Madam President, thank you so much for the warmth of the welcome that you have extended to me today. I very much appreciate this on my first ever visit to Korea.

Australia and Korea are important and natural partners. We are democracies, we are G20 economies, we are allies of the United States, we are countries which would much prefer to find friends than to pick fights.

We have a shared history, as you reminded us, Madam President.  A shared history in the conflict – the terrible conflict – that took place on this peninsula. But we have a personal history too.  A personal history that is expressed in thousands and thousands of people, including in yourself, Madam President, who made your first ever visit abroad as a young person with your parents to Australia.

It is important to build a bright future on the best lessons of the past.

As you said, Madam President, economically there is huge, untapped potential in the relationship between our two countries and I am determined to build on this and I believe that what we have signed today makes this a historic moment in the relationship between Australia and Korea.

The Free Trade Agreement that we signed today is the first Free Trade Agreement of your Government, it is the first Free Trade Agreement of my Government and I believe that is a Free Trade Agreement that we can both be very proud of.

The important thing about freer trade is that it will be very good for both our countries because trade means jobs. Freer trade means more jobs. Freer trade not only means more jobs, but it means better friendships. Freer trade right around the globe means more global harmony.

A successful trading relationship is built on trust; the trust that businesses, people and countries have for each other and we were able to negotiate this agreement because both Australia and Korea trust each other.

I am confident as a result of the long and strong friendship between our countries reflected in the agreement which has been signed this morning that over time Australia can help to deliver food security, resource security and energy security to the people of Korea.

But our relationship is about so much more than economics, ultimately this is a friendship based on shared values and I am particularly pleased at the Government of Korea’s agreement to participate in the New Colombo Plan programme from next year.

In the days before coming to Korea I was able to travel to the Pearce Air Base in Western Australia to personally thank the Korean aviators for their work in searching for the missing Malaysian aircraft MH370 and I am delighted to personally thank Madam President today for the swift, generous and heartfelt contribution that Korea has made to this important search.

And as we speak some 120 Australian service personnel are engaged in an amphibious exercise here on the Peninsula as a demonstration of our ongoing commitment to a strong defence and security relationship with South Korea.

At the heart of the vision statement that we have agreed upon today is trust in each other and values in common. I am absolutely determined that Australia will be a reliable and trustworthy partner to Korea as we advance together into a bright future.

Thank you Madam President.

QUESTION:

My question is for President Park Geun-hye. Korea has pursued FTAs with Australia and Canada during the previous administration. However, the conclusion was delayed due to various reasons. However, your administration concluded FTA with Canada and signed FTA with Australia today. Some analyse that it is a strategic arrangement to participate in the TPP Trans-Pacific Partnership. What is your take on this evaluation and also could you please elaborate the detailed implication of the signed Australia-Korea FTA?

PRESIDENT PARK:

I would note that the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement and whether or not to join to TPP are separate matters. Indeed given the economic complementarities between Korea and Australia, as well as the sizable volume of trade between our two countries, one can say that the Free Trade Agreement once it comes into effect will bring significant win-win benefits to both our countries. This notwithstanding, the negotiations for our bilateral FTA have stalled since they began back in 2009 and our relationship actually goes above and beyond just the economic dimensions.  Indeed Australia took part and deployed troops during the Korean War to safeguard freedom and democracy here in Korea.

So it’s a longstanding friend and partner; then as now and now as then our two countries continue to engage in close cooperation in the international stage as well. However, this notwithstanding, it was a shame to see how our FTA negotiations have been at a standstill and have stalled over the years. And so it was during our bilateral summit meeting on the margins of the APEC meeting last October that both Prime Minister Abbott and I had resolved to explore creative solutions to pushing the negotiation forward and to make every effort to bringing closure to this negotiation. And so subsequent to that meeting we’ve seen how our teams engaged in active efforts to push the process forward and also engaged in creative efforts and this is what has brought us to the signing table today.

And in terms of the economic impact of the Free Trade Agreement we can expect to see how tariffs on core Korean exports to Australia will be removed and eliminated within three years and this is expected to sizably boost our exports to Australia. This applies to, for instance, automobiles which accounts for 25 per cent of Korea’s exports to Australia in addition to, for instance, household appliances, general machinery and automotive parts. So these are also expected to see their exports grow.

And the FTA will also ensure greater stability in the investment climate as well so this is likely to further invigorate investment flows between our two countries. So we can anticipate a boost to both our GDPs of over $20 billion over the next 10 years respectively.

And just to add with regard to products that have been manufactured in the industrial complex of the North Korean city of Kaesong and whether to accord Korean country of origin status to those products. We have agreed to insert a provision on outward processing zones in our Free Trade Agreement and so I think we can also look forward to some positive impact there as well.

QUESTION:

Congratulations Prime Minister Abbott and President Park on signing this deal today. My question, Mr Abbott, is you promised to sign three FTAs with Japan, South Korea and China within a year of being elected. You’ve got to South Korean one across the line today and Japan was finalised yesterday. I’m wondering how confident are you that you’ll be able to meet that deadline and sign the China FTA by the years end and how do you plan on progressing that this week?

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you, Nick. Yes, this has been a good seven months for trade and our country. Two out of three of these deals within seven months is pretty good progress – it really is – and I want to thank Minister Andrew Robb for the extraordinary effort that he’s brought to bear and I also want to thank the officials who’ve worked so hard with him to ensure that we get these very high quality Free Trade Agreements with our principle partners.

So we’ve got two done; effectively one to go and I know that Andrew and the team around him will now redouble their efforts and focus single-mindedly on getting the Free Trade Agreement with China done, if at all possible, as quickly as possible. We will do a deal with China if and when it is clearly in both our countries best interests to do so and the point that I make with all of these Free Trade Agreements is that trade means jobs.  Freer trade means more jobs and freer trade not only means more jobs, but over time it means more trust in the world because we trade with people whom we trust and it’s overwhelmingly in the interests of countries such as Australia and China, not just to build the more prosperous economies, but to continue to build on the strong trust that already exists between our countries.

So Nick in conclusion, we’ll work hard.  We’ll work very, very hard at it.  We’re optimistic, but we can’t yet be certain of success.

[ends]