An interesting exchange took place around various topics including Brexit and Australia's relations with China and Latin America
After the Spain-Australia Dialogue, the Australian Leaders had lunch with representatives of Spanish think tanks, during which they discussed the conclusions of a very productive day.
Representing Spain were General Enrique Ayala from Fundación Alternativas; Emilio Cassinello, Head of Toledo's International Centre for Peace; Fernando Delage, lecturer at Universidad Pontificia de Comillas ICAI-ICADE; Miguel López Quesada, Communication and Institutional Affairs Director at GESTAMP; Fidel Sendagorta, Director General for Foreign Policy for North America, Asia and Pacific at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation; Enrique Verdeguer Puig, Director of ESADE Madrid; Agustina Briano, researcher at Club de Madrid; Francisco Márquez de la Rubia, analyst at the Institute of Strategy Studies, and Antonio Marquina, professor of Public International Law and International Relations at Universidad Complutense de Madrid.
Both the Leaders and the Spanish participants took the opportunity to discuss issues that had been overlooked during the Spain-Australia Dialogues and emphasise some of the aspects discussed throughout the morning. China, Latin America and Brexit were the most salient topics.
The debate around China’s influence on Australia from an economic and cultural point of view was particularly interesting. Susan Windybank and Liam Nevill discussed Chinese investments in Australia, which were controversial in 2016 as some of them could affect national security. They also talked about the large numbers of Chinese students at Australian universities and the efforts made by Chinese institutions to secure a foothold in Australia, although the Leaders said that Australian public opinion tends to overestimate the importance of China for the country.
Alastair Davis, who studied part of his degree in Mexico, discussed relations between Australia and Latin American countries, which have been broadly overlooked until now. The Lowy Institute analyst was “disappointed by the Australian Government's lack of ambition in America”, given that the government is more concerned with Asia. However, Australia “is becoming an increasingly important destination for Latin Americans,” which could fuel mutual interest in the future.
Finally, they moved on to analyse - this time from a purely Australian perspective - a topic that has recently hit headlines worldwide: the beginning of the official process that will take the United Kingdom out of the EU. According to the Leaders, the Australian position on this tends to be practical: Brexit is a reality which must be faced with the country's interests in mind. “It will be tough for the UK, and Spain will be impacted in many ways,” said Susan Windybank, “but it could be positive in the long term.” ‘Brexit’s main consequence for Australia is that, with the UK's departure from the EU, the country's regular gateway to the European market will be lost. “We will lose our point of entry into Europe,” stated Liam Nevill. “New relations will have to be forged.” Simultaneously, “a new agreement will be promoted with the UK. I believe it is an opportunity for Australia”.