A snapshot of the Asian Century White Paper

28 October 2012

Thriving in the Asian Century will require a clear plan to seize the opportunities it will bring.

The facts

Asia’s extraordinary ascent into the economic powerhouse of the world is not only unstoppable, it is gathering pace.

It has already changed the Australian economy, society and strategic environment. The scale and pace of the change still to come will have profound implications for people everywhere. In this century, our region will become home to most of the world’s middle class, the world’s largest producer of goods and services and the largest consumer of them.

We have already seen the benefits of Asia’s appetite for raw materials and energy. The next challenge will be how Australia can benefit from what Asia will need next.

The opportunity

History teaches us that as economic weight shifts, so does strategic weight. The Asian century is an Australian opportunity. As the global centre of gravity shifts to our region, Australia will be located in the right place at the right time—in the Asian region in the Asian century.

The growth in our region will impact on almost all of our economy and society. The demands of an increasingly wealthy and mobile middle class will create new opportunities across a diverse range of goods and services, from health and aged care to education to household goods, and tourism, banking and financial services, as well as high-quality food products.

Beyond economic gains, there will be many valuable opportunities for building stronger relationships across the region, including through closer educational, cultural and people-to-people links.

The challenge

Australia’s relationships in our region are strong and robust, including with Asian nations like China, Japan, India, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). But in this Asian century we must enter a new phase of deeper and broader engagement.

This White Paper provides a roadmap for the whole of Australia—governments, business, unions, and the broader community—in this next phase. Our goal is to secure Australia as a more prosperous and resilient nation that is fully part of our region and open to the world.

Our starting strengths

Australia starts from a position of strength. Just as our region has a lot to offer us, we have a lot to offer our region. We have strong, world-leading institutions, a multicultural and highly skilled workforce, and a productive, open and resilient economy, which is one of the strongest in the world. These assets have been reinforced by a series of economic reforms and good decisions made over past decades, including Australia’s world-beating actions to avoid the worst impacts of the Global Financial Crisis.

Our strengths have long been reflected in Australia’s interaction with countries in Asia. Over the past 50 years, Australia’s trade with Asia as a share of our total trade has risen dramatically. Our financial, political and cultural links have deepened. We have strong relationships and close friendships with countries across the region.

But Australia’s success will be based on choice, not chance. In order to succeed, we must sustain the policy settings and pathways that have served us well. We need to reinforce our strong social foundations, including our national institutions, our cultural diversity and our outward-looking society.

We will need to do more than this—we all need to respond to the rapid changes occurring in our region.

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