Economic relations between Australia and Japan were expanding and much of the representative office’s work went toward building relationships – many of which have been sustained to this day.
“We were really there to meet customers, tell people who we were, introduce the bank,” Ian says. “We would meet the big Japanese trading companies, the banks, but there was also an Australian presence in Tokyo – BHP was there, CSR, the NSW Coal Board.”
Emilio Moreno was the assistant representative officer for three years from 1979 remembers the relationship with Japanese companies and banks was maturing and Australian and New Zealand imports were diversifying – “it wasn’t just iron ore and coal but a lot of food. And dairy from New Zealand. There was an Australian company exporting asparagus.”
Japan was still rapidly modernising in 1969. The Tomei Expressway opened, linking Tokyo and Nagoya. Financed by a $US300 million loan from the World Bank, the Tomei became a major transport artery, further fuelling economic growth. The Economic Planning Agency (currently known as the Cabinet Office) announced in June 1969 that Japan’s GNP (Gross National Product) had surpassed West Germany to become the world’s second-largest and forecast continuing upward economic development.
The large Japanese trading companies had already established their presence in Australia by 1961, focused on wool, iron ore and coal exports. An Austrade report celebrating the 60th anniversary of the bi-lateral relationship mentioned the Japanese presence “markedly in the resources sector, helped transform Australia’s economy”.
After Japan became a member of the OECD in 1964, restrictions on foreign direct investment and capital controls were gradually removed, sparking a wave of foreign banks establishing offices around the same time.