Today the Lowy Institute has released its incoming government brief, Judicious Ambition: International Policy Priorities for the New Australian Government. We'll feature excerpts over coming days.
Linda Jakobson, Director of the Lowy Institute's East Asia Program, argues that the new government needs to add substance to the strategic dialogue agreed between Beijing and Canberra earlier this year:
Two regional initiatives should be top priorities in Canberra's discussions with Beijing. First, as the 2014 chair of the G20 and a nation reliant on free trade, Australia should urgently explore China's willingness to publish a joint statement supporting global trade agreements.Next year China takes on the chairmanship of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), which was founded, in part, to promote free trade. Even a generally-worded statement from the upcoming G20 and APEC chairs – a developed economy and an emerging economy – about the need to restart global free trade negotiations would send a strong signal to counter protectionist inclinations.
Agreement on the wording of such a statement would require Australian and Chinese officials at all levels to work together.This would increase familiarity between officials, which in turn could lay the foundation for future joint initiatives.It is in Australia's interest to be perceived by China as a partner of choice when it comes to discussing regional and global problems.
Second, Canberra should establish a major regional training centre for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) in Darwin and invite China to be an active participant in it.Canberra could use the Australia-China dialogue to explain its intentions and win Beijing's support for such an initiative.A state-of-the-art HADR centre would both raise Australia's profile as a regional player and encourage China to increase its defence cooperation with the region.