Wednesday 21 February 2018

Peter Cosgrove: Australia and Ireland need to re-evaluate opportunities in wake of Brexit

Peter Cosgrove is Australian Governor General
Peter Cosgrove is Australian Governor General

Peter Cosgrove

Australia and Ireland have a great history together. We share a fierce commitment to freedom and democracy, the English language, the Common Law, and enjoyment in beating England at (any) sport.

Nearly 2.5 million people in Australia claim Irish ancestry. Our enduring people-to-people ties began with the first European settlement of Australia and have continued to grow through successive waves of migration ever since.

Without Ireland, and Irish people, Australia would not be the country it is today.

Our shared history is important and should be celebrated - but mainly because it gives us a very strong basis to go forward and forge a brighter future together.

We are living in times when trust and shared values are more important than ever before. The world is witnessing, right now, a pace and scale of change that is without precedent and is affecting our lives at every level.

Technology is transforming our lives in ways we do understand and ways we don't yet. Artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things and 3D printing are changing our societies and economies; the kinds of jobs we will do in the future; and the way we live from day to day.

Both Australia's and Ireland's economic strategies have been based on the premise that international markets will remain open, liberal, and based on clear and mutually accepted rules.

But recent global developments mean that premise can no longer be taken for granted.

The Brexit vote in Britain, for example, means that in both Australia and Ireland, we need to re-evaluate how we do business, in Europe and beyond.

It is during critical periods of transition like these that we must uphold our core values and prevent the erosion of institutions.

The benefits of inclusion and diversity far outweigh any short-term gains from protectionism or exclusion.

Australia and Ireland share the view that openness to trade and investment builds links between economies and expands prosperity.

We need to stand together in support of that openness, and demonstrate to the world why it is benefiting our economies and our people's lives.

That is why the Australian Government is committed to negotiating an ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU - an agreement that represents an opportunity to open up exports, promote investment and remove barriers for business with EU countries, including Ireland.

It is important that countries like Ireland and Australia, with a firm belief in liberalism, democracy and the rule of law, set the example and lead the way in championing those values across the globe.

Despite the fact that one could scarcely find two countries further apart geographically, we offer each other valuable opportunities to access markets on each other's doorstep.

Ireland is a member of the European Union; through partnerships with our companies it can become a bridge for Australia into that affluent market of over half a billion people.

That will bring Australian investment and jobs into the Irish economy.

Australia is a core member of the Indo-Pacific region, both politically and economically, having concluded high-quality free trade agreements with China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, as well as the United States, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, ASEAN and New Zealand.

We are working on further enhancing trade and investment flows with our region through negotiations on a range of additional agreements, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, as a possible pathway to a free trade agreement of the Asia-Pacific.

And we are actively pursuing future trade deals in our region, such as bilateral negotiations with Indonesia and India. The Economist predicts that by 2050, Indonesia will leap from the 16th-largest economy today into the top 10 economies.

India is growing rapidly and is expected to become the world's third-largest economy in US dollar terms by 2030.

What all that means is that partnering with trusted Australian companies can be a short-cut for Irish businesses into the very markets that are growing the fastest right now - those of Australia's region.

Australia can be a bridge into Asia for Ireland in the same way as Ireland can be a bridge for Australia into Europe.

That will bring Irish investment and jobs into the Australian economy, at the same time as helping create greater wealth here in Ireland.

Stronger business ties are critical to ensuring we can share not only a great past but an even brighter future.


Peter Cosgrove is Australian Governor General

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