Over the years, Australia has become more and more engaged in international affairs as its global standing steadily expands. Australia is currently a leading trading nation with a strong focus on free trade and economic cooperation, as evidenced by its free trade agreements with China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, Chile and Malaysia. Australia has also engaged in several peacekeeping missions in the 21st century, including in East Timor, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ethiopia and Eritrea, and has recently held an elected position in the United Nations Security Council in 2013-2014. There is no doubt that Australia is actively increasing its presence on the world stage, and constantly working to strengthen bilateral relations with the global community.
Whilst it is of paramount importance that Australia maintains strong bilateral relations with the world, one of the more important relationships that Australia has is our relationship with the United States. Former Prime Minister John Howard provided an ideal summary of our relationship with the United States through his remark that “terrorists oppose nations such as the United States and Australia not because of what we have done but because of who we are and because of the values that we hold in common.” Australia-United States relations have been built on a robust framework of mutual respect and democratic values; freedom and the rights of the individual. These ties have been strengthened through international cooperation and symbiotic interests. Australia and America – two free countries with a firm belief in the democratic institution, the rule of law, and freedom of the individual – stand strong together in almost all facets of world diplomacy. One of the clearest affirmations of this strong, mutual relationship between our two nations is embodied in our defence partnership, publicly symbolised and epitomised by the ANZUS treaty.
The ANZUS treaty, signed in 1951, is a collective security agreement between Australia, New Zealand and the United States (although the United States has since withdrawn defence support for New Zealand), and not only exhibits the strength of our mutual defence cooperation, but embodies the robust, bipartisan relationship between Australia and America. The treaty was invoked once by former Prime Minister John Howard in response to the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks which shocked not only the United States, but Australia as well by assaulting and attacking the values that we hold and share as two free nations. Presently, our defence relationship continues to strengthen, with the signing of the U.S.-Australia Force Posture Agreement at AUSMIN in 2014 and a Joint Statement on Defence Cooperation in 2015; rotational deployment of U.S. marines to Darwin; and a biennial military exercise, Talisman Saber in 2017, ultimately working to enhance the military capabilities and readiness of both the Australian Defence Force and the United States military. Furthermore, Australia was the first country to support the American campaign against ISIS.
Mutual economic interests have also driven stronger ties between the two great, free nations. The United States is Australia’s largest foreign investor, with more than $650 billion in accumulated investment, equating to almost 30% of Australia’s total stock. Furthermore, the U.S.-Australia free trade agreement has significantly increased American exports to Australia by more than 100%. Australia also exports a significant amount of meat, precious stones/metals, optic and medical instruments and ores/slags/ash to the United States, bringing in almost $21.9 billion in 2015-2016.
Australia now features more notably in United States foreign policy than at any time since 1942-1945. With an inevitable power upheaval taking place in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia will continue to matter more and more to American foreign policy than ever before. The Asia-Pacific is steadily becoming a highly strategic region for the United States, evident through former President Obama’s foreign policy push of a “pivot to Asia”. With the shared common interests of democracy, individualism and freedom, and the mutual symbiotic economic and military cooperation between the two free nations of Australia and the United States – the relationship between our two countries will continue to remain a pinnacle of world diplomacy, and a global spectacle of how the free world should stand together in times of duress and in times of prosperity, to not only ensure peace within our respective regions, but ultimately peace throughout the world.