SYDNEY: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Australia next month and make a rare address to parliament, with his counterpart Tony Abbott Monday trumpeting their “strong friendship”.
The trip from July 7-10, which will include visits by Abe to Perth and the resource-rich Pilbara mining region, will be the first bilateral visit by a Japanese leader since 2002.
“Australia and Japan share a strong friendship based on common values, growing commercial and people-to-people links and shared interests,” said Abbott in announcing the visit.
“We are both committed to the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.”
The visit comes less than a month since Abbott was in Tokyo, where the two countries reached a long-awaited free trade deal.
Tokyo and Canberra also agreed to strengthen defence ties, moving towards a possible submarine deal.
“His visit to Australia, accompanied by a senior business delegation, will further strengthen our special relationship and build on the outcomes of our recent meetings in Japan,” said Abbott.
In Canberra, the two countries will sign the free trade deal, the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement.
It will give many Australian producers and exporters a significant competitive advantage with more than 97 percent of Australia’s exports to Japan receiving preferential or duty-free access.
Japan is Australia’s second-largest trading partner with two-way trade worth almost Aus$70 billion (US$65.9 billion) in 2012-13, while Australia is a significant supplier of energy and resources to Japan.
Abe is expected to head to Papua New Guinea after his Australian trip, becoming the first Japanese prime minister in three decades to set foot in the Pacific nation, Kyodo News reported earlier this month.
A huge liquefied natural gas project recently came onstream in PNG, with the first shipment of gas from the US$19 billion field destined for Japan.