Connect to share and comment

Japan, Australia to sign accords on free trade, defense equipment


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott are expected to sign bilateral accords to boost free trade and cooperation on defense equipment and technology when they hold summit talks in the Australian capital Canberra on Tuesday.

On the second leg of his three-nation tour of Oceania, Abe will likely outline his vision for new Japan-Australia ties and point to the importance of the rule of law in a speech to the Australian parliament, the first by a Japanese leader.

Abe is also expected to explain Japan's recent move to reinterpret the pacifist Constitution to enable its Self-Defense Forces to come to the aid of allies under attack in collective self-defense, Japanese officials said.

Japan and Australia, both U.S. allies, are striving to forge closer ties at a time when China is increasing its military clout in the Asia-Pacific region.

On the economic front, Japan depends heavily on Australia for coal, iron ore and other resources, giving strategic importance to their bilateral ties that are more intertwined than before.

Abe and Abbott are expected to sign a free trade agreement after seven years of negotiations, making it Tokyo's first with a major agricultural exporter, according to the Japanese officials.

The signing of another accord on defense equipment and technology is also expected, as the Japanese and Australian defense and foreign ministers reached a "substantial conclusion" during their talks in June. The deal would pave the way for Japan to transfer submarine-building technology to Australia.