Associate Professor Shiro Armstrong. Image supplied.

Then (1946) and now in Australian trade

10 August 2021

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Peter Drysdale is Emeritus Professor of Economics and the Head of the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research and East Asia Forum at Crawford School of Public Policy. He is widely recognised as the leading intellectual architect of APEC.

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The Australian and global economic landscape has significantly shifted since The Australian National University (ANU) was first established by an Act of Federal Parliament on 1 August 1946, but the mission remains the same as we continue our work to ensure national prosperity and tackle the complex problems facing humanity.

Seven and a half decades since the University was founded, Associate Professor Shiro Armstrong reflected on the role ANU has played, and will continue to play, in securing Australia’s economic future.

During a pop-up talk at the launch of the University’s 75th anniversary celebrations, Dr Armstrong outlined how the ANU Research School of Pacific Studies was first established to “help drive Australia’s engagement with, and understanding of, Asia”.

Now known as the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, the Research School of Pacific Studies helped define Australia’s engagement with our neighbours over the past 75 years.

Dr Armstrong said former Director of the Research School, Sir John Crawford, was instrumental in shaping economic and political security in the post-war period.

“Sir John Crawford, after whom the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy is named, was the architect of Australia’s post-war engagement with Japan and Asia,” Dr Armstrong said.

“Crawford was instrumental in the 1957 commerce agreement that opened up the resource trade with Japan that gave it economic security in exchange for Australian political security—something he had advocated for in 1938.”

Sir John’s influence extended beyond Japan to India and across the region. He became the ANU Vice Chancellor in 1968 and Chancellor in 1976.

Sir John was one of the first in a long line of ANU economists and scholars who have shaped Australian trade internationally.

“Professor Peter Drysdale worked with Crawford on deepening the economic relationship with Japan, and the regional economic cooperation that helped other countries emulate Japan’s trade growth, development and modernisation,” Dr Armstrong said.

“Professor Drysdale would become recognised across the region as the intellectual architect of APEC, and with Professor Ross Garnaut, shaped economic cooperation in the Asia Pacific around the ideas of open regionalism and concerted unilateral liberalisation.”

Transformative ideas from the likes of Ross Garnaut, Trevor Swan, Wilfred Salter, Max Corden, Bruce Chapman and many others over the years saw the University make a tangible difference to the national economy, as well as define Australia’s engagement with our Asian neighbours. The leadership of people like Helen Hughes helped create the development program and later the Crawford School of Public Policy, named after Sir John.

“Thinking from ANU promoted open regionalism where Asian cooperation and arrangements didn’t come at the expense of those outside the region,” Dr Armstrong said.

“It is through these ideas and regional frameworks that the ANU had an influence on China’s commitment to reform and opening up its economy.”

As ANU turns 75, the region is facing a myriad of challenges unlike it has ever seen before.

“The big ideas and intellectual leadership that helped Australia engage with its Asian neighbours so successfully is now needed more than ever with an external environment that’s more uncertain than at any time in the University’s history,” Dr Armstrong said.

“The rise of China, new technologies, climate change and the retreat to fortress Australia from the coronavirus pandemic all present challenges to national prosperity.”

As an Associate Professor at Crawford School, Director of the Australia-Japan Research Centre, Editor of the East Asia Forum and Director of the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research, Dr Shiro Armstrong is a key player in the next generation of ANU scholars who are working to secure Australia’s economic future.

“ANU needs big and bold thinking, and to work closely with our research partners, including in China, to ensure the next 75 years of engagement are as productive as were the last 75.”

Join us for the ANU Japan Update 2021 to hear more from Dr Armstrong and see our research in action.

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Updated:  4 December 2022/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team