A strong partnership
The author is Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.
For 60 years, Australia and Korea together built a partnership based on economic complementarity, strategic alignment and mutual respect. Australian resources have helped fuel the growth of Korea’s economy by providing key inputs for Korea’s exports. In return, Korean electronics, cars and consumables have enriched the lives of millions of Australians.
Expanding our cooperation will help us deal with today’s uncertainties and respond to the strategic challenges in our region.
That’s why I was so pleased that President Moon and Prime Minister Morrison recently agreed to elevate the Korea-Australia relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, and to pursue a Korea-Australia Low Emissions Technology Partnership.
A closer economic partnership between Korea and Australia will be a crucial pillar of the upgrade of our relationship. It will be key to responding to the changes and challenges in our region and beyond.
Like Australia, Korea is a large export-oriented economy and a major beneficiary of the rules based trading system. Regional trade agreements like RCEP and the CPTPP are an important signal at a time when the global rules based order is under threat. Australia is pleased to see the parties to RCEP — including Korea — moving towards ratification. We welcome Korea’s positive consideration to joining the CPTPP, and I look forward to discussing this further with Minister Yoo. And we see room to enhance the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
I am also looking forward to working closely with Korea on WTO reform, to build a credible package of initiatives by the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference later this year.
Getting the WTO’s Appellate Body working again is the most urgent priority. The most practical way to address economic coercion is the restoration of the WTO’s binding dispute settlement system. Updating the WTO’s rulebook is important too.
We need to make sure the WTO reflects modern trade and business priorities.
As part of upgrading the relationship, Australia wants to work with Korea to diversify supply chains and support supply chain resilience for products of importance to Korea’s high-tech industries.
Australia has rich, economically viable deposits of critical minerals, including rare earths, lithium, graphite, vanadium, nickel and cobalt needed in Korea’s production of magnets and batteries. Australia’s sophisticated mineral processing capabilities complement Korea’s advanced manufacturing sectors, and during my visit to Korea in coming days, I will be looking for ways Korea and Australia can connect at key points of the supply chain without relying on third parties.
Korea and Australia have a long-standing trading relationship based on carbon intensive resources, energy and transport. But this mix will change as the world addresses climate change.
A Korea-Australia Low Emissions Technology Partnership will lead our transition to a future economic relationship built on high technology lower carbon alternatives. Such technology-led responses are critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while also ensuring economic growth and job creation.
Particularly promising areas for Korea-Australia cooperation include clean hydrogen supply chains, hydrogen-fuelled heavy freight transport, clean fuel ammonia and low emissions steel and iron ore. There are also opportunities in carbon capture and storage and battery storage.
And, as always, Australia will look to Korea as a reliable source of high-tech items like fuel cells, hydrogen vehicles, and batteries.
My visit to Korea is a perfect opportunity to chart the future of the Korea Australia economic relationship. Korea and Australia can together face current global uncertainties with confidence, looking to build an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific region.
As our economies reorient, I am reassured that Australia has a friend like Korea to develop the technology, harness the resources, and set the rules, for the future we want to live in.