CANBERRA – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Australian counterpart, Tony Abbott, signed bilateral accords to boost free trade and cooperation on defense equipment and technology research and development, during summit talks in the Australian capital Tuesday.
On the second leg of his three-nation tour of Oceania, Abe said in a speech to the Australian parliament that he hopes to make ties between Japan and Australia a new “special relationship,” and stressed the importance of the international rule of law, a veiled criticism of China. He became the first Japanese leader to address Australia’s parliament.
Abe also spoke of his administration’s recent move to reinterpret the Constitution to allow the Self-Defense Forces to defend allies under armed attack through collective self-defense.
The defense deal signed Tuesday would enable the transfer of defense equipment and technology, as Japan overhauled its arms embargo and eased its export rules in April. Australia has shown strong interest in buying Japan-made submarines. Models with stealth technology are regarded as being among the best in their class.
On the economic front, Abe and Abbott signed a free trade deal after seven years of negotiations, Tokyo’s first with a major agricultural exporter.
The accord includes a cut in tariffs on Aussie beef imports of up to half the current rate of 38.5 percent, to be introduced incrementally. Canberra is scrapping its 5 percent tariff on Japanese auto imports.