Skip to content
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

Overview

High-level political engagement, including the historic visit to Australia by President Barack Obama and the Australia–United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) consultations, further strengthened Australia's bilateral relationship with the United States. The department worked closely with the United States to progress Australia's security, political and economic interests globally and in the region. We worked actively to maintain the broad trade agenda with the United States, including through the architecture of the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA).

The department advanced Australia's shared interests and high-level cooperation with Canada. Recognising the growing significance of Latin America and the Caribbean to Australia's interests, we supported enhanced engagement with regional organisations, high-level visits, AusAID programs in the region and the inaugural Latin America Down Under conference.

United States

The department supported a large number of high-level visits that progressed Australia's foreign policy, security and economic interests with our most important strategic and economic partner.

The department worked with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and other agencies in support of President Barack Obama's visit to Australia in November 2011. The visit, his first to Australia as President, marked the 60th anniversary of the ANZUS Alliance. During the visit, Prime Minister Gillard and President Obama announced significant initiatives to expand and deepen cooperation between Australia and the United States, including on defence and security cooperation, education, and energy efficiency. In his address to a joint sitting of Parliament on 17 November, President Obama underscored the Asia-Pacific as a top priority for the United States.

Photo of Prime Minister Gillard and US President Barack Obama at a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra on 16 November 2011. Photo: Getty Images

Prime Minister Gillard and US President Barack Obama at a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra on 16 November 2011. Photo: Getty Images

Senator Carr visited the United States in April 2012, his first visit as Foreign Minister, to continue Australia's close engagement with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior Administration and Congressional figures on key global and regional issues and bilateral cooperation. The then Foreign Minister, Mr Rudd, visited the United States in September 2011 to attend World Bank and G20 meetings. Mr Rudd again visited the United States in December 2011 and February 2012 for bilateral discussions.

We strengthened Australia's alliance with the United States through the AUSMIN consultations in San Francisco in September 2011. The meeting commemorated the 60th anniversary of the alliance, with the participation of Mr Rudd, the Minister for Defence, Mr Smith, and their US counterparts, Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Panetta. AUSMIN outcomes included enhanced defence cooperation and interoperability, strengthened joint development cooperation, and closer collaboration on cyber issues, demonstrating that the alliance is continually adapting to meet contemporary and evolving strategic challenges.

The department worked closely with the United States in support of our shared foreign policy objectives in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia welcomed the United States and Russia to the East Asia Summit, for the first time, in November 2011. The department, together with the Department of Defence and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, supported the implementation of the first phase of the Australia–US joint force posture initiatives announced in November 2011.

We maintained close dialogue with the United States on the conduct of the international mission in Afghanistan, on democratic reform in Myanmar, and on international responses to violence in Syria and the nuclear ambitions of Iran and the DPRK.

Photo of The Minister for Trade, Dr Emerson, with US Trade Representative, Mr Ron Kirk, at the APEC meetings in Honolulu, Hawaii, November 2011.

The Minister for Trade, Dr Emerson, with US Trade Representative, Mr Ron Kirk, at the APEC meetings in Honolulu, Hawaii, November 2011.

The department advanced a broad trade agenda with the United States, advocating a strong commitment to trade liberalisation in the WTO and Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations. We worked closely with the United States to support its objectives as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) host in the lead up to the APEC Leaders' Summit, held in Honolulu in November 2011.

The United States remained Australia's largest investment partner in 2011. US investment in Australia was worth $556 billion while Australia's investment in the United States was valued at $411 billion in December 2011. The United States also continued to be Australia's largest two-way services partner, with trade valued at $16 billion in 2011, and was Australia's third-largest trading partner in 2011, with goods and services trade worth $54 billion.

The department monitored US legislative proposals to stimulate the economy and actively advocated on the importance of avoiding protectionism and unnecessary regulatory barriers. We also highlighted the value of liberalising outcomes as US legislators renegotiate the US Farm Bill in 2012.

The department continued to utilise mechanisms provided by AUSFTA including through participation in the AUSFTA Agriculture, and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Committee meetings in March 2012. We worked closely with the United States on the first treaty-level amendment to AUSFTA, which entered into force on 1 June 2012. The amendment will deliver benefits to Australian textile manufacturers by allowing them to access the preferential tariff treatment when exporting certain yarns to the United States (also see Bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations 1.1.7).

We assisted with the January 2012 visit to Australia by two US Congressional delegations, and the March 2012 Special Visits Program visit by Everett Eissenstat, the Chief International Trade Counsel to the Ranking Member of the US Senate Finance Committee, Senator Orrin Hatch.

Australian business, innovation, tourism, film industry, culture and capability in the green economy were promoted in the United States by over 30 G'Day USA 2012 events in eight cities (Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington DC).

The department continued its strong support of the Australian-American Fulbright Commission through its representation on the Fulbright Board. The department sponsored the Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Australia–US Alliance Studies. We continued to engage with academic institutions and think tanks, including the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

Figure 10. Australia's trade in goods and services with the United States (a)

Australia's trade in goods and services with the United States

Table 3. Australia's trade in goods and services with the Americas (a)

 
Exports
Exports
 
Imports (b)
Imports (b)
 
Goods and services
2010
2011
Trend growth 2006–2011
2010
2011
Trend growth 2006–2011
 
$m
$m
%
$m
$m
%
United States (c)
14,297
14,898
-1.6
35,221
39,281
3.4
Canada
2,009
2,306
-2.8
2,535
2,570
-2.9
Mexico
789
1,187
5.5
1,458
1,826
9.5
Total NAFTA
17,095
18,391
-1.5
39,214
43,677
3.2
Central America & Caribbean (d)
404
304
-2.6
972
1,067
5.8
Brazil (e)
1,570
1,391
10.4
758
825
-3.7
Chile
449
673
12.9
1,132
1,162
30.0
Argentina (e)
340
380
20.7
286
550
19.4
Total South America
3,561
3,554
12.4
2,708
3,023
10.5
Total Americas
21,060
22,249
0.2
42,894
47,767
3.6

(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) 2010 and 2011 based on unpublished ABS data and includes confidential items (incl. 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.

Canada

The department strengthened the bilateral relationship between Australia and Canada through broader and more structured engagement.

We led the inaugural bilateral strategic dialogue in Ottawa in March 2012, covering a broad range of political and security issues on which Canada and Australia cooperate.

Australia strengthened aid cooperation with Canada through a memorandum of understanding signed in November 2011. The MOU is a blueprint for development cooperation with initial priority on multilateral aid effectiveness, mining for development, and food security and nutrition.

Strong investment, particularly in mining and energy, is a notable feature of the bilateral trade relationship. Canada's investment in Australia was worth $25 billion in 2011, a 34 per cent increase from 2010. Australia's investment in Canada also rose to $43 billion, an increase of 16 per cent. In May 2012, the Australian Industry Group and its Canadian counterpart, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, released a Joint Statement of 11 recommendations for enhancing the bilateral trade and economic relationship with Canada. Many of the recommendations will be relevant to our discussions with Canada in the TPP, which Canada was invited to join in June 2012.

The department supported the visit to Australia by the Canadian Trade Minister Edward Fast in April 2012, and participation by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Minister John Baird at Perth CHOGM in October 2011. We supported Dr Emerson's visit to Saskatchewan in September 2011 to chair the Cairns Group Ministerial meeting. The department also supported visits to Canada by the Minister for Home Affairs, Jason Clare, and the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin.

Reflecting the depth and importance of Australia's longstanding relationship with Canada, the department worked with Canada in numerous regional and multilateral contexts, including the G20, the UN, APEC and the Commonwealth.

The consular assistance Canada provided to Australians in Syria highlighted the importance of the bilateral consular sharing arrangement under which Canada and Australia provide consular services on each other's behalf in 40 locations around the world (also see Consular services 2.1).

Latin America and the Caribbean

The department supported the Prime Minister's visit to Brazil for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). This was the first visit by an Australian Prime Minister to Brazil. The Prime Minister and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff agreed to elevate the bilateral relationship to a 'Strategic Partnership', including a commitment to a regular leaders' meeting and a strategic dialogue. The Prime Minister announced an Australia–Brazil second track dialogue, supported by the Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR), to take place in 2013 (also see Public information services and public diplomacy 1.1.13).

Photo of Prime Minister Gillard with the President of Brazil, Ms Dilma Rousseff, on the first trip to Brazil by an Australian Prime Minister in June 2012. Photo: Auspic/David Foote

Prime Minister Gillard with the President of Brazil, Ms Dilma Rousseff, on the first trip to Brazil by an Australian Prime Minister in June 2012. Photo: Auspic/David Foote

In April 2012, Dr Emerson, accompanied by a business delegation, visited São Paulo to attend an Australia–Brazil business forum and witness the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the Australian Industry Group and the São Paulo State Federation of Industries. He also visited Brasilia to meet ministers responsible for Education, Foreign Affairs, International Trade, Mining and Energy and the Central Bank President.

Reflecting the increasing importance of Mexico to Australia, in September 2011 Mr Rudd and Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa signed a Plan of Action on political, trade, economic and development cooperation. The department led senior officials' talks in November 2011 and senior trade officials' talks in February 2012 during a visit by Economy Minister Dr Bruno Ferrari.

We facilitated visits to Mexico by Mr Rudd in February 2012 for the informal G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting, Dr Emerson in April for the informal G20 Trade Ministers' Meeting and the Prime Minister for the G20 Leaders' Summit in June.

Dr Emerson visited Chile to support Australian business involvement in a major mining conference, ExpoMin; and Colombia, accompanied by a business delegation, to advance Australia's commercial interests. The department supported visits to Australia by Chilean Defence Minister Andrés Allamand, Social Security Minister Evelyn Matthei and Mining Minister Hernán di Solminihac. We facilitated the signing of a framework on political consultations and a bilateral development assistance memorandum of understanding with Peru. Australia continued to negotiate with Chile and Peru in the TPP negotiations and welcomed the admission to that initiative of Canada and Mexico. We supported deeper bilateral links with Ecuador, including signing of an MOU on political consultations by Mr Rudd and Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño in New York in September 2011. We helped resolve technical market access and quarantine issues with Latin America.

The department, with Austrade and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (DRET), strengthened engagement with Latin America through support for the inaugural Latin America Down Under conference in Sydney in May 2012. Senator Carr spoke and met journalists from Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Uruguay on a departmental International Media Visits Program. We organised a session 'Australia-Latin America Relations: The Big Picture'; and provided side programs for Uruguay's Minister for Industry, Energy and Mining, Roberto Kreimerman, Peru's Vice Minister for Mining Guillermo Shinno and Nicaragua's Presidential Delegate for Investment Promotion and Foreign Trade, General Alvaro Baltodano.

The department facilitated Mr Rudd's visit to El Salvador in December 2011 to attend the Central American Integration System Leaders' Summit. We assisted AusAID in developing a cooperation program with Central America.

The department coordinated visits by Mr Marles, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to attend the Mercosur and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Foreign Ministers' meetings in Montevideo, Uruguay in December 2011 and in Suriname in May 2012 respectively, as well as bilateral visits to Cuba in July 2011 and to Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela in January–February 2012.

We facilitated deeper bilateral links with the Caribbean, supporting visits to Australia from Caribbean leaders and foreign ministers to attend the Australia–CARICOM and Commonwealth and Developing Small States meetings held at Perth CHOGM. We established an Honorary Consul in Jamaica in January 2012, and hosted a visit to Australia in June 2012 by St Lucia Foreign Minister Alva Baptiste.

The department continued to support COALAR's work to promote business, education, sustainability, tourism and cultural linkages. We facilitated the Council's work with major partners, including Austrade, Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, Latin American diplomatic missions and the Australia–Latin America Business Council (also see Public information services and public diplomacy 1.1.13).

Photo of The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Carr, addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC in April 2012. Photo: Yuri Gripas

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Carr, addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC in April 2012. Photo: Yuri Gripas

Outlook

The department will continue to work closely with the United States, including in the Asia-Pacific region. AUSMIN 2012 will provide an important opportunity to maintain the strong momentum in the bilateral relationship. The department will continue to engage Australian and US business interests, including utilising the AUSFTA to enhance and strengthen trade and investment links. We will be particularly focused on ensuring the Government is well positioned to pursue Australia's broad-ranging interests, following the US presidential and congressional elections in November 2012.

The department will support the second Australia–Canada Economic Leadership Forum to be hosted in Toronto in July 2012. The Forum will bring together academics, business figures and journalists from both countries to identify opportunities to further develop the bilateral relationship.

New rounds of bilateral political and trade consultations with Latin America are scheduled to take place in 2012–13. The department will seek to strengthen engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean through dialogue with regional organisations, participation in major industry events and support for two-way visits.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade