Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe flew into Canberra overnight in what is a much-anticipated visit to sign the Free Trade Agreement and the Defence deal agreed upon during our own Prime Minister visit to Tokyo a few months back.
The visit, and prospect of inking the FTA, has Trade Minister Andrew Robb so excited he tweeted the very moment he met Abe on the tarmac at Canberra Airport last night.
It is, however, both an important and delicate visit for the Government which will need to assuage Chinese concerns about the defence relationship between Australia and Japan, allowing the transfer of technology and potentially an Australian purchase of Japanese submarines.
Prime Minister Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit Australia in more than a decade and affording him the status that comes from the forging of “one of the world’s firmest friendships”, as PM Tony Abbott puts it, Abe will address Parliament today.
But it is the FTA that has local business leaders and the Trade Minister agog.
The AFR reports this morning that Minister Robb said the FTA will achieve “new openings in the Japanese market for a range of Australian services (which) will also encourage investment”.
He said Australia’s legal firms will be able to set up in Japan and our finance sector will “be able to supply a clearly defined list of financial services, including investment advice and portfolio management services”.
Australian business is also now able to have closer and more direct relationships with Japanese government entities.
But The Australian has an interesting take on the undercurrent of the visit, however, noting that it might be energy security which is the key driver, rather than the FTA, of the visit.
The Oz says that Japan is concerned about regional tensions in the South China Sea and wants Australian and Papua New Guinea gas which can avoid contentious sea routes.
It’s an important visit on many fronts and Prime Minister Abe has brought 20 big-hitting business leaders with him, including the heads of Japanese financial giant Mizuho and Mitsubishi.