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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

1.1.3 Americas


Photo - See caption below for description
The then Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, speaking with United States President, Mr Barack Obama, in Washington D.C. on 30 November 2009.
Photo: Auspic

The department pursued an enhanced relationship with the United States, addressing non-traditional security concerns, while maintaining strong defence, security, economic and trade cooperation. Although the Australia–United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN), scheduled for January 2010, were unavoidably postponed—as was United States President Mr Barack Obama’s visit to Australia, scheduled for March and then June 2010—we facilitated substantive and whole-of-government political engagement with the United States, helping advance Australia’s strategic objectives.

The department furthered Australia’s extensive cooperation with Canada in the United Nations and the G20, as well as on issues such as Afghanistan, consular cooperation and trade liberalisation. We led whole-of-government efforts to strengthen relations with Latin America and the Caribbean through high-level political engagement, enhanced participation in regional forums and in new areas of cooperation. Visits to Latin America by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Smith, and the then Minister for Trade, Mr Crean, advanced Australia’s political and economic cooperation with the region.

United States

The department facilitated high-level political engagement with the United States, advancing Australia’s objectives of promoting a coordinated response to the global economic crisis, regional and global security and nuclear non-proliferation. At officials’ level, we led the inter-departmental US Policy Group, which aimed to ensure coherence of government agencies’ work on the bilateral relationship.


FIGURE 10. Australia’s trade in goods and services with the United States

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.

Photo - See caption below for description
The then Minister for Trade, Mr Crean, in a bilateral meeting with the United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Ron Kirk, at the Hotel Raphael in Paris on 27 May 2010.
Photo: Alastair Miller

We supported a whole-of-government effort to work with the United States and other partners on strengthening global financial and economic institutions. This culminated in G20 leaders’ agreement at their meeting in Pittsburgh in September 2009 to designate the G20 as the pre-eminent global forum for economic cooperation. In November 2009, Mr Rudd visited Washington for bilateral consultations with United States President, Mr Barack Obama and Secretary of State, Mrs Hillary Rodham Clinton on the US Afghanistan strategy and on climate change. We worked with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and other agencies to prepare for the visit of President Obama to Australia, planned for March and then June 2010.

We aided the Government’s close collaboration with the United States in responding to international strategic challenges, including the war in Afghanistan, the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea and the threat of terrorism. In September 2009, Mr Smith visited Washington to discuss with senior Administration officials our key shared security interests. Mr Smith and the Minister for Defence, Senator Faulkner, were to have hosted United States Secretary of State, Mrs Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense, Dr Robert Gates, in Canberra for the 25th AUSMIN in January 2010, but the talks were postponed due to Secretary Clinton’s central role in responding to the earthquake in Haiti.

We continued to advance cooperation with the United States on nuclear non-proliferation, a priority for the Australian and US Governments. In May 2010, Mr Smith visited New York for the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference, for which Australia and Japan submitted a joint Package of Practical Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Measures. The same month, Mr Smith signed a new agreement between Australia and the United States concerning the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In June 2010, we hosted prominent nuclear expert, Dr Charles Ferguson, President of the Federation of American Scientists, under the Special Visits Program.

The US Administration’s response to the global economic crisis remained of critical importance, particularly the implementation of its stimulus package and the possible effects of this on Australian business. We made representations to the Administration about the need to avoid protectionism, including in government procurement and industry restructuring practices. We also welcomed the Administration’s promotion of trade liberalisation as part of its National Export Initiative, which aims to create jobs following the global economic downturn. In response to the Administration’s economic modernisation agenda, we assisted the Government’s efforts to promote Australia’s technology and services expertise in renewable and clean energy, biotechnology and water management.

In Washington in October 2009, Mr Crean convened the Australia–United States Ministerial Trade Talks (AUSMINTT) with US Trade Representative, Ambassador Ron Kirk. This meeting highlighted shared interests across the forward trade agenda, and helped deepen engagement with the US Administration on key multilateral and regional trade priorities, particularly the WTO Doha Round, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and APEC. We reviewed implementation of the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) and found it to be working well. Ministers instructed the department, in consultation with the Department of Finance and Deregulation, to conduct a review of implementation of the Agreement’s government procurement chapter with the Office of the US Trade Representative in 2010.

In May–June 2010, we hosted a visit to Australia by a senior congressional staff delegation, interested in the benefits of Australia’s economic reform agenda and trade liberalisation experience. In June 2010, under the Special Visits Program, we hosted Mr Jeffrey Schott, Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and Mr Bill Reinsch, the President of the National Foreign Trade Council, to exchange ideas on trade policy, including the Doha Round, Asia-Pacific regional integration, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and APEC.

We worked with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to promote export opportunities for a range of Australian agricultural and food products in the US market, including dairy and horticulture products. In August 2009, officials progressed technical discussions on specific agricultural market access issues under the AUSFTA umbrella. We continued to advocate against US farm subsidies and regulatory barriers, such as mandatory country of origin labelling for meat products, which affect the competitiveness of Australian agricultural exports.

We continued to advocate for the ratification by the US Senate of the Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty. If brought into force, the Treaty would create a comprehensive framework for two-way trade between Australia and the United States in defence articles, within an ‘Approved Community’, without the need for export licences.

The department supported initiatives for enhancing people-to-people links with the United States, particularly among young Australians and Americans. Mr Smith approved a departmental grant of $150 000 to the Australian–American Education Leadership Foundation in 2009–10 to establish a Young Leadership Dialogue program to build on the success of the Australian–American Leadership Dialogue. The first such Dialogue took place in Canberra in March 2010. We assisted the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to secure the continuation of the Australia–United States Work and Holiday pilot program, which gives eligible young Australians the opportunity to live and work in the United States for up to 12 months.

Mr Smith announced in March 2010 that the department would continue funding a Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Australia–US Alliance Studies for a further three years from 2010–11. Mr Smith also announced a special commemorative Anniversary Alliance Scholarship for 2010–11 to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Australian–American Fulbright Commission and the 25th anniversary of the AUSMIN consultations. We supported G’Day USA 2010, promoting Australian business, knowledge and skills, education, tourism and film in the United States.


The department worked closely with Canada in the G20 process, and supported Deputy Prime Minister Swan’s advocacy of Australian interests at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Toronto on 26–27 June 2010. We continued to cooperate on people smuggling and security matters, including our mutual interests in Afghanistan, as well as on UN matters, consular issues and intelligence-sharing. We initiated a bilateral trade dialogue at senior officials’ level to further our trade interests, and worked with Canada to promote the benefits of trade liberalisation in the WTO and APEC and agricultural reform in the Cairns Group.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Photo - See caption below for description
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Smith, meeting with the Brazilian Minister for External Affairs, Dr Celso Amorim, in Brasilia on 25 August 2009.
Photo: Joe Chan / Reuters / Picture Media

The department supported Australia’s growing relations with Brazil through facilitating high-level exchanges, including a visit by Mr Smith to Brazil in August 2009. We pursued shared and ongoing interests in the G20, and worked to expand links in new areas of cooperation including sport, science and technology, mining and energy. The department supported Mr Crean in promoting Australia’s trade and economic objectives with Brazil, during his visit to Brazil in April 2010. We facilitated the signing of the bilateral Air Services Agreement by Mr Crean and External Affairs Minister, Dr Celso Amorim. We finalised the text of a Memorandum of Understanding (previously known as the Plan of Action) between Australia and Brazil for the Establishment of an Enhanced Partnership.

We continued to work closely with Mexico on multilateral issues, including global financial reform in the G20 process, climate change, the UN and the International Whaling Commission. We advanced economic relations with Mexico by supporting the reconvened Joint Trade and Investment Commission that Mr Crean and his counterpart, Mr Gerardo Ruiz Mateos, chaired during Mr Crean’s visit to Mexico in April 2010. We facilitated the signing of a bilateral Air Services Agreement by Mr Crean and Mr Ruiz and worked with the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to facilitate the signing by Mr Crean of memorandums of understanding on agriculture and cooperation in mining. In March 2010, we hosted the first round of senior officials’ talks with Mexico to deepen political cooperation.

We supported Mr Smith’s visit to Chile in August 2009. A key outcome was a commitment to hold regular political consultations. We supported Mr Crean in his visit to Chile in April 2010 and his constructive discussions with ministers in the new government of President Sebastián Piñera Echenique. We worked to advance cooperation in agriculture, mining and education. We provided consular support to Australians affected by the earthquake in Chile in February 2010, and worked closely with AusAID to provide emergency relief and reconstruction assistance to rebuild 12 childcare centres that had been destroyed. We progressed implementation of the Australia–Chile FTA and facilitated the conclusion of a Double Taxation Agreement. Due to the Chilean presidential election and earthquake, plans to hold the inaugural Joint Free Trade Agreement meeting with Chile had to be postponed, and a new date is yet to be determined.

Photo - See caption below for description
The then Minister for Trade, Mr Crean, exchanging a signed Memorandum of Understanding on Emergency Assistance with the Chilean Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Fernando Schmidt Ariztia, and the Chilean First Lady, Ms Cecilia Morel Montes.
Photo: Veronica Caceres

Mr Crean’s visit to Argentina in April 2010 led to enhancement of the bilateral trade and investment relationship and reinforced cooperation in the G20, WTO and Cairns Group. We worked closely with the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government to facilitate the conclusion of a bilateral memorandum of understanding with Argentina on rail infrastructure, and with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on the resumption of negotiations on a reciprocal Work and Holiday visa arrangement. We helped to establish stronger parliamentary links by facilitating the visit by the President of the Senate, Senator Hogg, in September 2009.


  Exports Exports     Imports(b) Imports(b)  
Goods and services
Trend growth 2004–2009
Trend growth 2004–2009
United States (c)
Central America
& Caribbean (d)
Brazil (e)
Argentina (e)
Total South America
Total Americas

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
(b) Imports total excludes imports of ABS confidential items (mainly aircraft) from September 2008 onwards.
(c) 2008 and 2009 based on unpublished ABS data and include confidential items (including aircraft) imports.
(d) Excluding Mexico.
(e) Goods data only. Services data is not published by the ABS for these countries.
Based on DFAT STARS database, ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004 and unpublished ABS data.

Photo - See caption below for description
The then Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General, Mr Edwin Carrington, in the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, signing a memorandum of understanding formally establishing relations between Australia and CARICOM.
Photo: Auspic

Relations with Colombia were significantly enhanced through the visit of Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Jaime Bermúdez Merizalde, to Australia in March 2010. A key outcome of the visit was a commitment to hold regular political consultations and build on cooperation with Colombia on multilateral issues such as disarmament, the environment, UN reform and trade liberalisation. In Geneva in November 2009, Mr Crean and Mr Luiz Plata Páez, Colombian Minister for Trade, Industry and Tourism, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Trade and Investment with Colombia, negotiated by the department. Our facilitation of Senator Hogg’s visit to Colombia in September 2009 helped establish stronger parliamentary links.

We continued to support enhanced engagement with Peru, through our cooperation in APEC and the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. We continued our work to reopen Australia’s embassy in Lima in 2010.

We supported a visit by Mr Crean to Uruguay to co-chair the Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting in April 2010. CER and Mercosur officials met to resume the CER–Mercosur Dialogue. Bilateral trade and economic relations with Uruguay were furthered through the conclusion of a memorandum of understanding on trade and investment.

In November 2009, we supported Mr Smith’s visit to Cuba. A key outcome of this was the signing of a memorandum of understanding establishing political cooperation. Cuban Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, visited Australia in June 2010, and, as a result, Ministers committed to enhance cooperation to improve health outcomes in the Pacific and the Caribbean.

We helped to advance relations with the Caribbean through support for Mr Rudd’s visit to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Trinidad and Tobago in November 2009. In the margins of that meeting, Mr Rudd signed a memorandum of understanding, formally establishing relations with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the centrepiece of which was a $60 million Development Assistance Partnership. We supported Mr Smith’s visit to Dominica in May 2010 to address the 13th meeting of CARICOM’s Council for Foreign and Community Relations. We worked closely with AusAID and other agencies on Australia’s response to the earthquake in Haiti, including by facilitating an assistance package and supporting the provision of air traffic controllers.

We supported strengthened regional engagement, including with the Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation through the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Mr McMullan’s attendance at the Fourth Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Tokyo in January 2010 and the preceding meeting of senior officials in Buenos Aires. We supported an increase to Australia-based staff numbers in Port of Spain, Mexico and Brasilia and have worked towards the appointment of more honorary consuls in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Under the Special Visits Program, we facilitated visits to Australia by Mr Federico Sturzenegger, President of the City Bank, Argentina, Mr Melitón Arrocha Ruiz, Vice Foreign Minister of Panama and Mr Eduardo Ferreyros Küppers, Vice Minister for Trade, Peru.

We continued to support the work of the Council on Australia Latin America Relations to further strengthen Australia’s relationship with Latin America and managed the smooth transition of new appointments to the Council (see sub-program 1.1.13).


Enhancing Australia’s engagement with the United States, including by strengthening strategic, commercial and people-to-people links, will remain a key goal for the department. A rescheduled AUSMIN meeting and bilateral Trade Ministers’ meetings will provide significant opportunities to further consolidate the bilateral relationship, as would a visit to Australia by President Obama. Recognising that the Australia–US relationship touches on nearly every aspect of government business, we will continue to coordinate a whole-of-government effort to strengthen Australia’s relationship with the United States.

We will continue to maintain the momentum of enhanced relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. Priorities include support for increased high-level political engagement, building bilateral relations in the region with new governments in countries such as Brazil, Colombia and Chile, enhancing relations with Peru through the reopening of the Australian embassy in Lima and strengthening engagement in regional forums.

Next page: 1.1.4 Europe
Previous page: 1.1.2 South-East Asia

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade