Australia aims to be the food bowl of Asia

Sydney: After firming its position as one of the largest suppliers of mining resources to the Asian economic powerhouses like China and India, Australia now aims to become the food bowl of the region.

“Just as we have become a minerals and energy giant, Australia can be a great provider of reliable, high quality food to meet Asia’s growing needs,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in an address to the Global Foundation in Melbourne.

“In doing this, we are not just an exporter of commodities, but a partner in growing international markets and a provider of higher value products and services for the global food industry,” she said.

Gillard emphasized on the need for more interaction with the Asian economies to secure Australia’s financial future.

She gave the example of Singapore which has changed so much after the Second World War to stress her argument about the emergence of strong Asia.

“Today’s Singapore would have been unimaginable in 1942” when it fell to the Japanese army, she said. Its rise is “richly symbolic of Asia’s extraordinary rise”.

“At the time of Singapore’s fall, Asia represented a threat to the Australian identity,” Gillard said in her Melbourne speech. “Over the decades since, our engagement with Asia has become essential to our identity,” she added.

Australia plans to hinge its economic fortunes to the emerging Asia.

Gillard says Singapore is a story that symbolises the rise of Asia and, she says, there’s more change to come. Besides resources and food, Australian planners are also excited about the burgeoning demands for energy in the region.

“By 2030, China and India alone are forecast to account for 35 per cent of global energy demand,” Julia Gillard said.

“The number of internet users in Asia and the Pacific tripled between 2005 and 2011, from 344 million to more than 1 billion,” she said while stressing the point that Australia should adapt to the emerging ‘Asian Century’ which “requires a response from every level of our society”.

Gillard also appraised the gathering about the progress made on the much-anticipated white paper on ‘Australia in the Asian Century’.

The government commissioned policy document on Australia’s relations with Asia, due for release in mid-2012, is like to provide a roadmap for various Australian strategists to follow.

Gillard has also urged for more interaction with Asia on people-to-people level.

“For Australia to prosper in the ‘Asian Century’, more Australians must be encouraged to study and work in the region, Julia Gillard said in the late Thursday night speech in Melbourne.

“We must broaden and deepen these ‘Asia relevant capabilities’ across the whole of Australian society,” she said.