Asia Pacific

Aust. nuclear science helps Asia region farming sustainability

AUSTRALIAN Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) scientists are researching the environmental effects of agriculture in the Asia Pacific region, as a way of helping to maximise sustainability.

ANSTO’s Professor Henk Heijnis has assembled a team to lead the Regional Cooperative Agreement (RCA) project on land degradation,  a multinational research effort that could lead to improvements in the way scarce environmental resources, like soil and water, are managed. 

Prof. Heijnis said the Asia Pacific region was enduring “severe pressure on limited soil and water resources” due to a rapidly expanding population and economic development. Recent decades have seen rapid deforestation and clearing of lands for agricultural cultivation. 

In soil and land use studies, isotopic techniques play a crucial role in studying natural and anthropogenic soil erosion processes, Prof. Heijnis said.

“These studies will result in outcomes at a number of levels, from providing individual farmers with insights on more effective and efficient livestock, to improved crop, soil and agricultural water management, as well as giving political decision-makers the background to enable informed decisions to be made at national and regional levels,” he said.

Prof. Heijnis said ANSTO was strongly committed to nuclear technical cooperation in the Asia-Pacific through its membership and active participation in the RCA.

The RCA is an intergovernmental agreement of 20 IAEA member states in the East Asia and Pacific region. ANSTO supports the program through essential in-kind support such as the provision of experts at training courses and at meetings; hosting workshops and technical meetings; and hosting IAEA fellows and scientific visitors.

Australia’s participation in RCA is widely seen as prolific, with experts across all four thematic areas – health, environment, agriculture and industry – involved in 18 of the 22 active projects.

ANSTO scientists such as Prof. Heijnis lend their expertise in technical cooperation projects on water resource sustainability, air particulate pollution, and measuring the impact on the marine environment from nuclear power in the region. 

With the expertise of Heijnis and his team in IER in collaboration with Dr Tim Ralph of Macquarie University, ANSTO is well placed to lead the land degradation project, with extensive experience and expertise in the use of radioisotopes in soil erosion and accumulation studies.

The next review meeting of the project takes place in Kathmandu, Nepal, with Prof. Heijnis officiating for the first time as project leader.





Seminar on future of Japan-Australia-Queensland business relations

THE Queensland Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QJCCI) and Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Brisbane (JCCIB) will jointly host a seminar on August 20 at Queensland Parliament House on the future of the Japan-Australia and Japan-Queensland business relationship.

The seminar aims to accelerate business between the countries in response to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent signing of the Japan Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA). 

The JAEPA agreement has been hailed as introducing a new era in the bilateral relationship between Australia and Japan that is expected to stimulate two-way trade between both countries – and QJCCI and JCCIB are working with of Trade and Investment Queensland, the Embassy of Japan in Canberra and the Consulate-General of Japan in Brisbane to help drive the opportunities forward for business.

Japan is Queensland’s second largest trading partner after China and the new agreement offers significant potential to expand the commercial links between the state and Japan.

The JAEPA seminar will feature keynote speakers, a panel discussion and networking.

Responses are due on August 11 for a limited number of seminar places through the booking form here.


Will ABC International and Australia Network still expand China media cooperation?

IN THE WAKE of the Federal Budget, it is unclear what will become of the planned link-up between ABC International and its Australia Network with China’s media powerhouse, the Shanghai Media Group.

The proposed arrangement was reportedly supported by media authorities of the Chinese Government in Shanghai. Yet the cuts to the ABC, SBS and the reported withdrawal of funding for the Australia Network will negatively impact the proposed arrangements.

On the back of the recent Australian Government-backed Australia Week in China trade mission, ABC International and the Australia Network struck an international multi-platform media cooperation arrangement supported by the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film and TV.

The detailed agreement to formalize the arrangement were to be signed in Shanghai on May 4. Through the cooperation, ABC International was set to establish an online portal in China through which a range of ABC and other Australian media content and services could be offered and presented to partner Chinese media organisations. 

The arrangement also enabled the ABC to establish a base in Shanghai with official approval to represent and sell media content across China, enter into international co-productions, and generate international sponsorship and promotional opportunities.

“This historic agreement opens up a whole new world of television and online cooperation between Australia and China,” ABC managing director Mark Scott said. “It provides a truly unique window for all Australian media to build a friendly and mutually cooperative relationship with China.”

It is ironic that so much of the media cooperation had been driven by the Australian Government, with the ABC extensively covering Prime Minister Abbott’s visit and early steps for a free trade agreement – yet the Federal Budget now appears to place the deal in jeopardy.

“International Channel Shanghai last week broadcast a week of Australian TV programs provided by the ABC and Australia Network to coincide with Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s visit,” Mr Scott said when announcing the cooperation deal. It was also a time when Australia’s profile was high in China from leading the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

“Q&A’s live broadcast in China was the first open interactive public comment style program broadcast live from China to Australia,” he said. “The success of last week and the future under this agreement will help build understanding between China and Australia.”

Shanghai Media Group’s International Channel Shanghai executive director, Sun Wei said, “The Shanghai Media Group is China’s second largest media organization and its recent restructure ensures we are looking to further build our international media partnerships.

“Ground breaking international broadcasts such as Q&A, which was produced as a collaboration between Australian and Chinese television crews, pave the way for bigger and better international media cooperation and cultural connections in the future.”

ABC International CEO Lynley Marshall commented at the time: “This agreement will enable us to put the full range of Australia Network programming and content from other Australian media into China and for China to connect more closely with our media.

“Most importantly, the agreement will provide opportunities for promotion of Australian business, tourism, entertainment, culture and education.”

The eventual shape of any cooperation will play out in the next few months as the ABC is expected to re-organise its budgets in the wake of the funding cuts.


POSTED MAY 16, 2014.

Australia helps China develop international currency


THE central banks of Australia and China are working together on potential future clearing and settlement arrangements in Sydney, as Australia helps China to develop its international currency, the renminbi.

One of the most significant outcomes of the recent Australia Open For Business delegation to China, led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, was the agreement to enhance offshore market development of the renminbi (RMB).

Australia is at the forefront of countries working with China to support international use of the RMB, according to statements made by Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey.

“Australian banks and their Chinese counterparts have worked hard to promote direct trading of the two currencies,” Mr Hockey said. He said monthly trading volumes had increased more than seven-fold in the past year to US$2.4 billion from US$324 million equivalent before direct trading.

In fact, Mr Hockey said, the Australian dollar had become the fourth most traded currency on China’s Foreign Exchange Trading System and there was significant potential for this market to grow.

“China’s leaders have sent a strong signal of their commitment to a comprehensive program of economic reform. Financial sector reform will be central to achieving this,” Mr Hockey said.

“These reforms will better integrate China into the global economy by breaking down the walls that prevent the free flow of capital to the rest of the world.  It will see China further liberalise its exchange rate and promote the international use of its currency.”

Mr Hockey confirmed that Australia’s Reserve Bank was working with China’s central bank,  the People’s Bank of China, on future clearing and settlement arrangements in Sydney.

“When I travel to China for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue later in the year, I will explore further steps to promote economic and financial cooperation between Australia and China,” Mr Hockey said.

“Australia’s business delegation to the inaugural Australia Week in China demonstrated a high level of interest in the economic relationship between our two countries.  Banks, fund managers, farmers and miners all stand to benefit from Australia's positioning as an offshore RMB centre.

“2014 is a year of opportunity for China and Australia to deepen financial ties.”



Mongolia wins Australian resources industry co-operation

MONGOLIAN Foreign Minister Luvsanvandan Bold negotiated a five-year, $20 million Australian support program to assist the sustainable development of the nation’s resources sector on his recent mission to Australia. 

It was the first visit to Australia by a Mongolian Foreign Minister in 20 years and it concluded a range of co-operation agreements between countries, opening the doors for Australian companies.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the $20 million Australia-Mongolia Extractives Program would utilise Australian expertise in Mongolia to help ensure the benefits of the mining sector were spread across its entire population.

“Like Western Australia, Mongolia’s economy is driven by mining and resources,” Ms Bishop said. “Whether in Australia or Mongolia, private-sector led growth is key to a growing economy.”

Ironically, there were parallels with current Australian domestic policy that resonated in the resources sector, such as the taxation of mining.

“Releasing Mongolia’s fledgling mining industry from a failed mining tax has greatly benefited the economy,” Ms Bishop said.

“Australia is pledging to support the Mongolian Government with financial assistance and expertise that will improve governance in the mining sector, opening their economy up to international investment and development opportunities.

“The program will also improve access to technical and vocational education and training in disadvantaged communities in Mongolia so they are better equipped to gain employment in the mining industry.”

One of the highest profile commercial partnerships operating in Mongolia at present is Rio Tinto’s investment in Oyu Tolgoi.

The Australian Government’s existing $5 million partnership with the World Bank is also helping to strengthen management of groundwater resources in the southern Gobi region, Ms Bishop said.

During the visit last fortnight, Foreign Minister Bold also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Consular Cooperation.






ASEAN leader talks co-operative futures with Australia

THE FIRST official visit to Australia by the Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Le Luong Minh, took place last week.

Highlighting the geographical and strategic position of Australia, Secretary-General Minh encouraged Australia to play a greater role in contributing to ASEAN-led mechanisms for the maintenance of peace, security and stability. He further encouraged both sides to forge cooperation in other potential areas such as governance, forestry, public health, arts and cultures, sports, SMEs, infrastructure development and vocational training.

Secretary-General Minh also conveyed that the ASEAN Secretariat would stand ready to effectively coordinate with ASEAN member states in co-operating with Australia in these joint endeavours.

Secretary-General Minh thanked Australia for its active and steadfast support for ASEAN’s regional integration and community building efforts over the past years, and called upon Australia to further extend and align its support to ASEAN’s Post-2015 agenda, which is currently being developed.

As part of his programme in Sydney, Secretary-General Minh met with the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission as well as ASEAN and Australian students at the University of Sydney. In Canberra, he gave an address at the College of Asia and the Pacific of the Australian National University.

ASEAN and Australia will convene a Commemorative Summit later this year in Myanmar to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations.

“Secretary General Minh’s visit provided an opportunity to discuss challenges facing the region, including maritime security and disaster management,” said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

“ASEAN plays a key role in regional security-focused engagement, in particular through the leaders-level East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

“South East Asia is vital for Australia’s strategic and economic interests. Australia is working in partnership with the ASEAN Secretariat, headed by Secretary General Minh, to support integration efforts between ASEAN countries including through the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program.”

Secretary General Minh’s visit coincided with the 40th anniversary of Australia’s formal dialogue partnership with ASEAN, which began with an officials meeting in Canberra on April 16, 1974, and Australia was ASEAN’s first dialogue partner.

The 10 member countries of ASEAN represent a population of more than 600 million people and a combined economy of $2.4 trillion. Australia’s two-way trade with ASEAN has more than doubled in the past decade to $92 billion in 2012-13.

Ms Bishop said ASEAN’s importance to Australian interests would grow as it sought to deepen economic, political-security and socio-cultural integration through an ASEAN Community by 2015.

“Australia and ASEAN are also working together to implement the 2010 ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement and negotiate the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership which are key drivers of regional economic integration,” Ms Bishop said.



FTAs and economic boost to result from trade mission to Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong

AUSTRALIA'S Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop will promote the timely conclusion of two Free Trade Agreements during a visit to Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong until October 20 - and explore new areas for strategic and economic cooperation with between the governments.

Ms Bishop and her team will also meet business leaders, students, alumni and academics in the region to explore how young Australians will be able to capitalise on the study and internship opportunities to be offered under the New Colombo Plan.

In Japan, Ms Bishop will discuss with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and members of the Diet how Australia can build on existing ties and enhance Australia-Japan cooperation in regional and global forums.

"Our longstanding close partnership with Japan is underpinned by shared values and common interests - a commitment to democracy and the rule of law, and to continued regional stability and prosperity," Ms Bishop said.

In South Korea, Ms Bishop will meet Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, Trade Minister Yoon Sang-jick and other Cabinet members.

"South Korea is a key strategic partner in Asia, a colleague on the United Nations Security Council and our third-largest export market," Ms Bishop said.

Ms Bishop will become the first Australian Foreign Minister to address a major international forum on cyberspace when she attends the Seoul Cyberspace Conference today (October 17).

She will join ministers from around 30 countries, as well as business and civil society leaders to discuss cyber security issues and the impact of the internet on economic growth and development.

Ms Bishop will visit Hong Kong, reinforcing its importance as an economic partner and as a leading regional base for Australian business. In Hong Kong, Ms Bishop will meet Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So.

Planning is also underway for Ms Bishop's first official trip to China which is to take place this year.



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