Food Security & the Asia Pacific Tops List of CHOGM Issues

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A key objective for CHOGM 2011 was shoring up its relevance in a fast-changing world. Food security now features strongly in international gatherings such as the G8, G20, and CHOGM Perth, Western Australia was no different. Commonwealth leaders agreed to the Perth Declaration on food security principles. The declaration acknowledges that food security is one of the most important challenges faced by the Commonwealth countries with more than half of the world’s one billion hungry people living in Commonwealth countries. The declaration reaffirmed the right of everyone
to have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food. The Australian Government also launched a $36 million food security centre in Canberra. The Australian International Centre for Food Security will be tasked with finding ways to share Australia’s food production expertise with Commonwealth countries.

In addition, the CHOGM Business Forum was attended by 1400 delegates from 54 countries. Of the 150 business meetings held during the three days, they were anticipated to discuss $100 billion worth of projects, around the world, with the potential to yield more than $10 billion worth of trade contracts. It was also the first time that Chinese interests were invited, with about 50 delegates understood to have attended.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard advised CHOGM delegates, “Australia’s top four export markets are now all in Asia, with China taking almost a quarter of our total exports, and Japan, South Korea and India together accounting for almost a further third. This strong economic relationship is no accident. For many years now, Australia has been committed to building a mature, balanced and sustainable relationship with China and the region. With China now contributing over 20 per cent to global growth, demand for Australian exports is set to remain strong. Asia’s rapidly growing middle class represents a huge potential market for Australia’s goods and services, including our commodities, education, tourism, financial services and manufacturing.

Three weeks before the formal announcement during US President Barrack Obama’s visit to Darwin in November, Julia Gillard stated at CHOGM, “The increasing strategic and economic weight of the Asia-Pacific region heralds a new and challenging period for the Australian-US alliance. I believe Australia’s future prosperity and security depends on maintaining the strategic stability in Asia, upholding its openness to trade and commerce. As in previous decades, the US presence in Asia will be the cornerstone of regional stability that creates the conditions for growth and prosperity.

Julia Gillard added. “Australia and Indonesia are close neighbours and good friends. We enjoy a highly productive relationship that ranges across political, security, commercial, environmental, cultural and people-to-people links. On a bilateral level, we have a healthy trade and economic relationship, with two-way goods and services trade worth $12.9 billion in 2010. We are also working together on the world stage to tackle some of the most important global challenged, including securing the global economic recovery through the G20, helping to build and secure prosperous region through the East Asia Summit and APEC, and cooperating closely on people smuggling and climate change.

Australia’s relationship with Malaysia is also significant and growing. We are cooperating on a range of economic and security issues, including negotiations towards a free trade agreement and addressing regional security challenges such as people smuggling and counter-terrorism. Malaysia is also Australia’s third largest trading partner in ASEAN and our tenth largest partner overall, with two-way goods and services trade valued at A$15.5 billion in 2010…

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