I am delighted to be in Manila for my first official visit to the Philippines as Prime Minister said Malcolm Turnbull who is the Prime Minister of Australia.
My visit has two key aims. First, I am representing Australia at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting – an important event on the global economic calendar.
Now in its 26th year, APEC has proven to be the pre-eminent regional forum for promoting open and transparent markets, economic integration and regulatory cooperation. APEC is especially important for Australia, as its members represent almost three quarters of our goods and services trade.
It is fitting that the Philippines has chosen for APEC 2015 the theme of “Building Inclusive Communities; Building a Better World”. It is a theme that resonates with many of us in the region, as our economies and societies experience rapid transformation.
The Asia Pacific’s growing middle class is creating new demand for services, from tourism to telecommunications, while digital technologies are making it easier to trade services across borders. Progress by APEC on services sector reform will help to unlock new sources of growth.
Australia has worked closely with the Philippines to advance APEC’s goal of creating a seamless regional economy. In particular, I welcome the Philippines’ leadership in placing structural reform and services trade and investment liberalisation at the forefront of the APEC agenda in 2015.
The Asia Pacific of today faces vastly different challenges, and opportunities, to those of 1989 when APEC first met in Canberra. We must continue to grow our economies, but accelerate efforts towards growth that is sustainable, inclusive and resilient to external shocks.
I look forward to a productive Leaders’ Retreat today (19 November) and I thank the Philippines for being such a warm host.
The second purpose of my visit is to mark the formal elevation of the bilateral relationship with the Philippines. Yesterday (18 November) I met President Aquino, a great friend of Australia, to sign a Joint Declaration on the Philippines-Australia Comprehensive Partnership.
The partnership agreement is timely. Next year, Australia and the Philippines will celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations. The first Australian Consulate-General opened in Manila in 1946, just as the Philippines was emerging as an independent republic. However, our relationship is older than this. As Ambassador Bill Tweddell has written before in these pages, our soldiers stood together in battle and learned the cost of friendship during World War II. Over 4,000 Australians fought beside Filipinos in the campaign to liberate the Philippines. 92 Australians gave their lives and hundreds more were wounded.
From the turmoil and triumph of war, over the last 70 years our friendship has grown into a steadfast partnership grounded in shared values of democracy, economic freedom, respect for human rights, and adherence to the rule of law.
As written by Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia and seen on PhilStar