His Excellency Bill Paterson
Australian Ambassador to Korea
AustCham Message from His Excellency Bill Paterson, Ambassador of Australia to the Republic of Korea
Dear AustCham Members,
I congratulate the AustCham board members who were elected or re-elected to the AustCham Board, and to thank those who served so well last year. I have had the pleasure of working closely with the AustCham Board during my time as Ambassador to Korea, and particularly over the past 12 months as we worked together to get the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA) over the line.
The partnership between Korea and Australia continues to go from strength to strength and now encompasses a broad spectrum of political, diplomatic, security, educational, economic and cultural interests, reflecting the closeness of our bilateral ties as well as our increasingly shared values.
The entry into force of KAFTA in December last year was a milestone in the bilateral relationship between Korea and Australia. And I would like to particularly acknowledge and thank AustCham members for their unswerving support in getting the Agreement over the line. AustCham was an integral and active part of the Australian campaign to build a constituency for ratification of the Agreement in 2014.
The benefits of KAFTA are many. The Agreement not only significantly liberalises the trade in goods between both countries, but also lowers barriers to the trade in services, as well as investment. This will boost economic growth and employment in both countries, but requires business to understand and to utilise the benefits. Put differently, the governments of both countries have created this new economic infrastructure and now it is for Korean and Australian business to take full advantage of it.
KAFTA has already delivered concrete benefits to Korean and Australian businesses and consumers, with two tariff cuts in quick succession – one on entry into force in December, and one on 1 January of this year. The cheaper goods resulting from these tariff cuts have generated considerable media attention for iconic Australian exports like beef, wine and cherries, and iconic Korean exports like automobiles. We have also seen increased interest from Australian first time exporters to Korea.
KAFTA will also continue to be a key priority for the Australian Embassy in 2015. Now that the Agreement has entered into force, our focus has shifted to ensuring its full implementation. We face other challenges in 2015 – slowing growth in the global and Korean economies, and the major drop in commodity prices. The shape and size of our trade and investment may change as a result, but Korea's creative economy drive and efforts to build a more developed services sector offer Australian companies new opportunities.
As always, I am grateful for AustCham's assistance in working towards these goals. Through working together, we can more effectively advance Australia's interests, than we could by working individually.
Ambassador of Australia