Japan's ambassador says Australia has won supporters through its response to China's trade tariffs, while signalling his nation is willing to "compare notes" in dealing with challenges presented by the superpower's rise.
Ambassador Shingo Yamagami said his nation had full sympathy with Australia as it faced restrictions on multiple exports, and that many people in Japan had marvelled at its resilience under the trade pressure.
Australia's "consistent, steadfast" response, combined with its handling of COVID-19, had made it stand out, he said.
"In these two regards, Australia has won a number of supporters and sympathisers," Mr Yamagami said.
Japan's top diplomat in Australia, who began his posting to Canberra in February, said nations must reject attempts to apply political pressure using trade.
He said the list of China's trade restrictions targeting nations "goes on and on", referring to similar actions against exports from the Philippines and South Korea following political disputes.
"We have to say this has to stop. Because we will try to all promote prosperity through liberalisation of trade and trade based upon international rules," Mr Yamagami said.
"If trade could be used as a tool to apply political pressure, the effect of liberalisation and rules-making under the World Trade Organization could be significantly undermined," he said.
China last month confirmed it would extend major restrictions against Australian wine producers for five years after imposing interim tariffs of up to 200 per cent in 2020.
There is a lot we can do together comparing notes, sharing our experiences.Ambassador Shingo Yamagami
The federal government in December referred China to the WTO over its tariffs on Australian barley. China has also imposed restrictions on Australia's coal, lobster and beef amid a deterioration in relations last year.
Mr Yamagami said Japan had encountered similar trade difficulties when China restricted imports of rare earths in 2010 after a dispute relating to the Senkaku Islands.
Japan responded by diversifying its trading partners, and taking the matter to the WTO, which ruled against China.
"These are the kind of experiences we can share with our friends in Australia," Mr Yamagami said.
"Where you have this kind of trade dispute, there are two important things we have to keep in mind.
"One is we have to abide by international trading rules, specifically WTO rules. Second, the important thing to do is to try to solve the issue peacefully."
Japan and Australia were in a position to take advantage of opportunities from China's rise, Mr Yamagami said.
"At the same time, our two countries have to address the challenges presented by the rise of China. In this regard, there is a lot we can do together comparing notes, sharing our experiences," he said.
Mr Yamagami, who joined the Japanese foreign service in 1984, said he wanted to raise Japan's profile in Australia - and Australia's profile in Japan.
"Our relations are in an excellent state, but at the same time it seems to me we have taken each other for granted," he said.
"The Japanese love things Australian, but that said, are we really aware of the full potentials of our bilateral relationship? There is a lot we can do together."
Japan in recent years has been Australia's second-largest trading partner, and was its largest trading partner for 26 years starting in the 1970s.
The nations' relationship had the potential to expand beyond close trade ties to include greater defence cooperation, Mr Yamagami said.
A new treaty bolstering defence relations between the nations - the Reciprocal Access Agreement - would formalise the framework for joint training and drills for Japan and Australia. Mr Yamagami said it would serve as a deterrent against any possible disruptions to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
"The Aussie-Japan relationship is developing at remarkable speed. That's my impression," Mr Yamagami said.
"Our two countries share global values, such as democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law, and the market economy. But not only that, another commonality is Australia and Japan do share strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific region."
A free and open Indo-Pacific could bring a "tremendous amount of benefits" to every nation in the region, he said.
"Australia and Japan are in the same boat, in this regard, to promote this great vision."
Mr Yamagami's comments follow the historic first meeting of leaders last month for the revived Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which counts Australia, Japan, the United States and India as members.
The ambassador called "the Quad" a vehicle to promote the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and rejected descriptions calling it an "Indo-Pacific NATO" or an alliance targeted at any particular nation.
He said the Quad was inclusive for any country that supported the vision, including freedom of navigation, disaster relief and maritime security.
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