In keeping with the Alliance and Australia’s long-standing relationship with the United States, the department facilitated a number of high-level exchanges in 2015–16 to progress foreign, trade and development objectives.

The annual Australia – United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) consultations, held in October 2015 in Boston, strengthened cooperation on promoting regional and global security and prosperity. The foreign and defence ministers committed to implement fully the US Force Posture Initiatives in Australia and pursue enhanced naval cooperation.

The department advanced Australia’s economic interests with the United States through participation in the Australia – United States FTA (AUSFTA) consultations on market access and active promotion of the value of the FTA in the context of its 10th anniversary. We helped deliver the 2015–16 G’Day USA program—a high-profile series of events involving Australian and US government and business leaders promoting Australian economic, cultural and strategic interests. We also supported Austrade’s development of the Australia United States Business Week to showcase Australia as a world-class tourism destination and a valued trade, investment and education partner.

We cooperated closely with the United States on international development, both in our region and internationally, with a focus on innovation, women’s empowerment and engaging the private sector.

The department’s innovationXchange established a formal partnership with USAID’s Global Development Lab, through which we will share lessons, knowledge, technologies and approaches to evaluating and scaling-up successful development innovations.

The department deepened engagement with Canada. We facilitated the Glasgow–Burchell Declaration on Enhanced Diplomatic Network Cooperation, under which the two countries are finding new ways to deliver diplomatic services.

The department pursued growing links with Latin America with a focus on business, culture and education. Australia’s principal cultural diplomacy initiative, Australia now, was held in Brazil in April and May. It highlighted Australia’s creativity and innovation to tens of thousands of Brazilians in 11 cities.

In recognition of the strengthened ties between Australia and Mexico, the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee conducted an inquiry into the bilateral relationship. The department provided a written submission and gave evidence to the committee highlighting increased political cooperation and prospects for greater economic engagement.

We supported Special Envoy for Trade Andrew Robb to lead the first official trade visit to Cuba and facilitated work by the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation to conclude a debt rescheduling agreement with Cuba as part of the Paris Club negotiations. We further advanced the Government’s economic diplomacy agenda through the Special Visits Program and support for the participation of the president of the National Mining Agency of Colombia at the Latin America Down Under mining conference in Perth in April. Australia–Caribbean relations remained strong.


Promoting a stable and prosperous regional and global environment by cultivating and deepening our engagement with bilateral and regional partners and multilateral institutions


Case Study
Australian Foreign and Defence Ministers meeting their US counterparts in Boston. [DFAT/Trevor Collens]
Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop (2nd left) and Minister for Defence Senator Marise Payne (left) with US Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd right) and US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, AUSMIN, Boston, 13 October 2015. [DFAT/Trevor Collens]


The department coordinates and leads Australia’s participation in AUSMIN—Australia’s principal annual forum for bilateral consultations with the United States. AUSMIN supports and deepens Australia’s engagement with the United States, and promotes a stable and prosperous regional and global environment.

At AUSMIN 2015, held in Boston in October, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Defence met with the US Secretaries of State and Defense, along with senior officials from both portfolios.

The department, both in Canberra and through our Embassy in Washington DC, worked with the United States to develop a comprehensive agenda covering the full range of Alliance cooperation. The AUSMIN outcomes were significant. Both countries reaffirmed a shared commitment to the bilateral relationship and the Alliance. Discussions progressed shared responses to a range of regional and global challenges,  including supporting the continuing stability and prosperity of the Indo–Pacific, countering violent extremism, and responding to conflict and humanitarian crises in the Middle East. Both countries also restated their commitment to the US Force Posture Initiatives in Australia.

AUSMIN 2015 confirmed both countries’ commitment to enhance interoperability of military forces, intelligence cooperation, collaboration on policy, planning and capability development, and cooperation with regional partners, with the release of a Joint Statement on Defense Cooperation.

Through close coordination with the departments of Defence, Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Immigration and Border Protection, the department helped ensure the meeting was successful and that outcomes strengthened one of our closest bilateral relationships.

Improving market access for Australian goods and services, attracting foreign investment to Australia and supporting Australian business abroad

The Australia – United States Free Trade Agreement: delivering for Australian business

Case Study

AUSFTA has transformed Australia – United States economic relations. In the 10 years since the FTA entered into force, total trade between the two countries has risen significantly. The department sought to build on these gains and promote the agreement’s success, including the benefits of Australia’s FTAs generally, through marking AUSFTA’s 10th anniversary in 2015 with a series of high-profile events. We developed a program that included former Prime Minister John Howard speaking at a conference in Sydney and the Minister for Trade and Investment addressing the National Press Club. Industry, parliamentarians, think tanks and diplomatic participants acknowledged the value of these events in advancing Australia’s proactive trade policy agenda.

AUSFTA has provided a significant boost to the Australian economy and has substantially improved market access for Australian exporters. In 2014, only 3.9 per cent of Australian exports to the United States paid tariff duties, compared to 54.2 per cent in 2004. Close to 100 per cent of key Australian exports enter duty free.

Under AUSFTA, over 99 per cent of Australian beef exports now enter the United States duty free. Before AUSFTA entered into force, all Australian beef exports attracted tariffs. During the past 10 years of the agreement, the value of beef exports has increased over 70 per cent. Similarly, all Australian zinc exports now enter the United States duty free after tariffs applied to these exports were abolished under AUSFTA. Since AUSFTA has come into force, the value of zinc exports has increased over 21 times.

AUSFTA has also provided Australian exporters with access to
31 US government procurement markets for the first time. It has promoted mutual recognition of professional qualifications, resulting in Australian lawyers and engineers being able to practise in Delaware and Texas respectively.

The department ensures that AUSFTA remains a ‘living agreement’ applicable for the private sector and investors and responsive to the trade and investment priorities of the Australian and US Governments. We work in a whole-of-government way with relevant portfolios to take forward diverse market access issues with the United States, from sanitary and phytosanitary requirements to technical regulations and standards, to mutual recognition of professional qualifications. In this role, the department co-chaired the 5th AUSFTA Joint Committee Meeting in May to discuss ways to advance key bilateral trade and investment issues, and to continue strengthening the bilateral economic relationship.

Analysis and outlook

In an international environment of increasing complexity, and in an Indo–Pacific region in which growing economic weight has generated strategic competition, the United States continues to play a vital role in supporting global security and prosperity.

In 2015–16, the department led engagement with the United States to deepen already close diplomatic and defence cooperation. In the year ahead, we will manage ministerial visits to the United States, including building relationships with the new Administration following US elections in November 2016, and working with the Department of Defence to support implementation of the US Force Posture Initiatives in northern Australia. Given our strong cultural and economic ties, G’Day USA will remain a key platform for advancing Australia’s interests.

The department also coordinated Australia’s close cooperation with the United States on the shared regional economic agenda and fostered stronger trade and investment.

In the year ahead, we will facilitate further business linkages and two-way investment, and promote and implement AUSFTA.

Given the region’s strong economic growth and future potential of Latin America, the department will continue to drive increased whole-of-government engagement with Latin America, identifying trade and investment opportunities in key regional countries and supporting strong growth in cultural, education, tourism, research and sporting connections, as well as building on shared interests in the multilateral agenda.

The department will continue to implement its economic diplomacy agenda in Mexico, a key focus of which is strengthening business networks, particularly in the energy and mining sectors. Preparations are underway for the second Australia–Chile Economic Leadership Forum scheduled to be held in Melbourne in December 2016. We will also take advantage of Peru’s hosting of APEC during 2016 to promote high-level engagement in the region and Australia’s economic diplomacy agenda.

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