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Building on a strong UK-Australia relationship

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18 January 2011 13:45

William Hague is the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom. This post was written exclusively for The Interpreter.

I arrived in Sydney today with my colleague Liam Fox the Defence Secretary and a number of senior UK officials — the biggest foreign and security policy delegation to Australia for many decades. I have been looking forward to my visit, the first by a UK Foreign Secretary in nearly twenty years.

I hope this visit will be an opportunity to celebrate our uniquely close relationship, one that runs so well at the level of government, but also at the level of individuals. Our history, language, films and TV, and indeed the Ashes, show that we have a host of cultural reference points which make us feel like cousins. That strength of feeling has been running very strongly in the UK in recent weeks — numerous people have got in touch with me to ask me to express our strong support for Australia during the appalling floods in Queensland.

We are proud of the history, sacrifices and achievements that bind us. But we should be determined that the strongest and most productive period in our relations lies ahead of us, not in the past. Our ambition is to reconnect with Australia: to open a new era in our relations in which the best days are yet to come, and to work together to reinvigorate the Commonwealth. This will be the theme of a speech I will give at the Lowy institute during my visit.

We see Australia as a close ally in a dynamic and important region, and believe the connections between us will become more valuable still in the networked world of the 21st century. Although the UK is physically distant, we retain great political, trade, and cultural interests here.

I am looking forward to exchanging views on a range of regional issues with Kevin Rudd and others during my visit.

  • The long-standing security and intelligence partnership has been adapting: we are focusing ever more on countering terrorism. And on analysing and addressing cyber threats.
  • Trade and investment between the UK and Australia is strong and we want to see it grow. The UK economy suffered more than Australia's in the global financial crisis; but we are still on track for GDP growth of over 2% for the next five years, putting us ahead of many other large EU countries, the US, and Japan. The UK is the second largest foreign investor in Australia, and the UK is the second biggest destination for Australian investors overseas.
  • We work closely together in international institutions, from the UN to the G20. As like-minded allies we can achieve more together then separately.
  • We have been close partners on climate change. Low carbon growth is fundamental to the UK's strategy for domestic economic prosperity, and, I believe, to the world's future. I will be interested to hear Australia's plans for tackling climate change and to share our experiences in the UK, including lessons we've learned from our emissions trading scheme.

Ultimately, the strength and durability of the Australia-UK relationship comes from mutual trust. That makes discussing contemporary issues with Australian colleagues an engrossing and enriching experience, and we can be bold in deciding what action we take together.

Follow Mr Hague on twitter at @WilliamJHague. Photo by Flickr user Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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