Australia’s relationship with Japan is one of its closest and most mature in Asia, and after my three years in Tokyo, I can vouch for how clear that is when you’re a visitor in the beautiful land of the cherry blossoms. To me, the potential for that relationship to grow in the post-pandemic period is clear.
Many things carry Australia’s relationship with Japan, but if you’re looking at it purely in the history books, there are some sizable structural underpinnings. Arguably our major trading relationship, which was formalised in 1957 in the post-war period, is the most significant of these agreements. We also have similar commitments in our political and legislative systems, we are both party to the 1976 Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, the 2007 Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, and the 2015 Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement.1
Quite aside from that significant timeline, to me, the strong and progressive nature of the relationship between the two countries has been clear since the moment I moved to Tokyo, three years ago. Working in Japan was a pleasure from the outset. I’ve seen true, productive cooperation between government, corporations and individuals – most promisingly, that includes young leaders.
I think the strength and potential of that relationship has been even more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic, where it could have been tested. I’ve written before about how being on the ground in Japan during the initial outbreak of the pandemic cemented in my mind how ingrained the wilful cooperation is between Japan and Australia. I can look back on that piece now, originally penned in March, and can say it has aged well.
It could have been extremely difficult to send an entire workforce home, coordinate people movement across borders and get the basics like hand sanitiser sorted – while maintaining the utmost focus on our clients, during a market crash of a generation. Of course, it was a challenge, particularly when the virus was a relatively unknown entity. I can confidently say though that the safety, efficiency and dedication of our employees in Japan during that time was supported and enabled by the community spirit and sense of collective responsibility from the Japanese people, underpinned by a productive and cooperative business environment.
In my mind, these successes shouldn’t be underestimated, especially in a year like 2020. They represent something deep, they reflect some true colours in times of absolute adversity. It’s awfully bittersweet to see that strength shine through at such a challenging time for humanity, but in my mind, it speaks volumes of the potential in what lies ahead.
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