This week, I am visiting Japan to represent Australia at the 50th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).  Under Japan’s astute and innovative leadership, the ADB has improved the living standards of millions in the region. 

As founding members, Australia’s collaboration with Japan in the ADB is an example of the strength of our political, economic and security relationship with Japan, and our commitment to boosting prosperity and stability in our region.

The closeness of our relationship reflects a genuine commitment by leaders on both sides to strengthening our ties. In January, Prime Minister Abe visited Australia, reciprocating Prime Minister Turnbull’s visit to Japan in December 2015, and reaffirming our Special Strategic Partnership.  The Partnership is founded on common values and strategic interests in promoting democracy and good governance, opening markets and improving livelihoods in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. These values and interests underpin our bilateral relationship and the way we work together in key institutions, including the ADB. 

Australia was the second largest donor, after Japan, to last year’s replenishment of the Asian Development Fund, the ADB’s financing arm for the region’s poorest countries.  From 2013-2016, Australia’s support to the ADB, along with that of Japan and other donors, helped build or upgrade 34,000 kilometres of roads and 1,400 kilometres of railways, provided more than 3 million households with new or improved water supply, and trained 2.4 million teachers to provide better education for the region’s students.

Our work is not finished.  Around 330 million people in the region still live on less than USD1.90 a day.  The rapid growth of emerging economies in the region masks pockets of poverty in some areas and further action is needed to address rising inequality, promote productivity-centred growth and avoid a middle income trap.  Beyond Asia, developing countries in the Pacific face unique challenges arising from geographic isolation, small populations, climate change and vulnerability to natural disasters. 

At this meeting, we will also discuss the ADB’s corporate vision to 2030.  Along with celebrating the Bank’s successes over the last 50 years, we need to reflect on lessons learned, identify areas for improvement and define new and emerging priorities.  These should include promoting economic reform, private sector development and good governance, and focussing on disaster risk reduction and infrastructure development.    ADB funding in has significantly contributed to regional economic prosperity, security and stability in our Asia-Pacific regions. We need to continue to work together - pooling our talents and resources in institutions like the ADB - to ensure that the economic potential of the region can be fully realised.

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