Pilbara key to Japan PM s visit
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is greeted by Trade Minister Andrew Robb. Picture: Reuters

Shinzo Abe is expected to use his trip to the Pilbara to foreshadow greater Japanese investment in iron ore and gas projects in WA.

Amid concern among Australia’s export partners that China is attempting to crowd out competitors, the Japanese Prime Minister wants to use his visit to Rio Tinto’s West Angeles mine to remind Australia of his country’s half-century ties with the region.

His visit to the Pilbara is being likened to predecessor Kakuei Tanaka’s visit to WA’s North West in 1974 that presaged huge growth in Japanese steel making.

Mr Abe, who arrived in Canberra last night, will fly to Newman tomorrow with Prime Minister Tony Abbott after the leaders have finalised trade and defence co-operation agreements.

The Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement is the first free trade agreement that Japan has reached with a major developed economy. It will give Australian beef, dairy, wine, horticulture and grain producers improved access to the Japanese market.

Under the FTA, tariffs on Australian frozen beef will be halved, all horticultural tariffs will be eliminated and all Australian resources will be duty-free within a decade, with tariffs on coal, petroleum, nickel, aluminium and titanium dioxide to be dropped immediately.

Mr Abe will be travelling with a delegation of business representatives whose companies have a combined worth of $300 billion, including Nippon Steel, Mitsubishi, Inpex, Chiyoda, Mitsui, Itochu, Kawasaki and NYK.

The two leaders will conclude an agreement on the transfer of defence equipment and technology which will potentially lead to Australia using Japanese Soryu-class technology to propel its next generation of submarines.

Japan has similar defence co-operation agreements with the US and Britain.

The Federal Opposition welcomed the military technology transfer agreement but warned the Abbott Government not to use it to break its pre-election promise to build the submarines in Australia.

The use of Japanese defence technology has been a contentious issue given Japan’s officially pacifist foreign policy.

Mr Abe has recently “reinterpreted” Japan’s post-war constitution to allow his country to assist allies against military threat.

Mr Abbott will use his speech to Parliament today to explicitly support Mr Abe’s constitutional reshaping of Japanese foreign policy.

“Since 1945, Japan has been an exemplary international citizen,” Mr Abbott will say.

“Australia welcomes Japan’s recent decision to be a more capable strategic partner in our region.

“Ours is not a partnership against anyone. It’s a partnership for peace, prosperity and the rule of law. Our objective is engagement, not containment.”