Financial Times: Letters – Follow Australia on Asia-Pacific Ties

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Sir, The UK has much to gain from closer co-operation with Australia (“Pact with Australia seeks to boost British influence”, January 18). Few countries “get” the UK people better or know us and love us more (except on the field of sport). But the Australians also know the economic rewards to be reaped in the Asia-Pacific region far better than we do.

Last year, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a 25-point plan to create greater ties with Asia – including Asian language lessons for all Australian children. Despite much work by the British Council and other organisations to promote Asian languages in the UK, all the evidence suggests that the number of schools offering Mandarin, for example, is still startlingly low.

Trust, built through mutual cultural understanding, ultimately underpins trade. Let us hope that, as we collaborate more closely with Australia, their considerable efforts in the Asia-Pacific region will inspire more at our end – while we continue to whack them for six at all forms of cricket all summer long.

John Worne, Director of Strategy, British Council