On Friday (13 November), the co‑chairs of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group, Maria Böhmer, Minister of State at Germany’s Federal Foreign Office and Mathias Cormann, Australian Minister for Finance, presented Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with a report containing 59 recommendations to intensify relations between the two countries.
Raise relations to a new level
Maria Böhmer stressed that the Advisory Group wanted to give German-Australian relations a forward-looking agenda and elevate them to a new level.
We want to expand trade and investment and improve strategic dialogue. We need to strengthen cooperation in the fields of science and education, and to intensify exchange on diversity, migration, integration and refugees. Our contacts in the fields of culture, sport and wine making should be broadened.
Longstanding close ties
In her talks with Chancellor Merkel and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Böhmer stressed that the German-Australian partnership rests of a firm foundation.
We share the same values. The German emigrants who found a new home in Australia, and the many young students, academics and researchers who work and travel in Australia nowadays, form an important link between our countries. Interpersonal relations and contacts at governmental level are excellent.
Huge potential for deepening bilateral cooperation across the board
In view of the strategic and economic strength of the two countries in their parts of the world, in the European Union and in the Asia-Pacific, Minister of State Böhmer felt there was still a lot of room for improvement. She called the potential for enhancing bilateral cooperation across the board immense, but noted that both countries would have to overcome the popular belief that the great geographical distance between them was an obstacle to a closer, deeper relationship. Geographical distance was, she said, becoming ever less relevant due to the Internet and increasing digitisation.
Trade and investment
The measures recommended by the Australia-Germany Advisory Group in the field of trade and investment included the following:
- Promote free trade between the EU and Australia
- Cooperate on the development of global industry 4.0 standards
- Improve the free movement of human capital, in particular through the recognition of qualifications
- Strengthen dialogue on energy, energy security and climate change related matters
- Conclude a new Double Taxation Agreement
This final recommendation has already been implemented. The new Double Taxation Agreement was signed in Berlin on 12 November 2015.
Strategic dialogue and collaboration
In the field of strategic dialogue and bilateral collaboration, the Advisory Group recommended strengthening exchange between governments and parliaments on strategic, economic and social issues, intensifying dialogue between Foreign and Defence Ministers in a “2+2” format and improving the architecture for collaboration between experts and think tanks on global challenges.
Science and education
In the field of science and education, the Group proposed improving cooperation on research projects and the exchange of students, scientists and researchers, in particular in the area of innovation and commercialisation.
Diversity, migration, integration and refugees
With respect to the theme of diversity, migration, integration and refugees, the Australia-Germany Advisory Group called on the two countries to intensify collaboration within the UN and to engage in a best practice dialogue on integration.
Culture, sport and wine making
As regards culture, sport and wine making, the Group recommended strengthening cooperative partnerships and broadening their bases.
The recommendations are addressed to everyone!
The recommendations are addressed to all stakeholders, not just the two governments. “Businesses, think tanks, scientific and research institutes, arts bodies and sporting groups alike are called upon to fulfil their important role in German-Australian cooperation. Only if they do so will we manage to seize the many diverse opportunities and advantages that exist,” concluded Minister of State Böhmer.