Annual Report 2007-2008

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 1 > Output 1.1 > 1.1.3 Americas

OUTPUT 1.1: Protection and advocacy of Australia's international interests through the provision of policy advice to ministers and overseas diplomatic activity

1.1.3 Americas

On this page: Overview :: United States :: Canada :: Latin America and the Caribbean :: Outlook


The department strengthened Australia’s strategic engagement with the United States, Canada and Latin America. Australia’s fundamentally important alliance with the United States was advanced through successful Australia–United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) consultations in Canberra in February 2008 and through a range of high-level visits and exchanges. Expanded Australia–United States Ministerial trade talks (AUSMINTT) in June 2008 focused on market opportunities for Australian business and enhanced cooperation with the United States on trade. The department continued to play a central coordinating role across government and in consultation with business, industry groups and academia on Australia’s wider interests in the US relationship.

We expanded our bilateral interaction with Canada and coordinated closely with Canada on a range of global issues. Australia’s collaboration with Canada on Afghanistan and the visit to Australia by Canada’s Prime Minister in September 2007, further enhanced our long-standing partnership. In Latin America we contributed to expanding bilateral relations and economic linkages by supporting high-level visits in both directions, and promoting increased trade and investment, including by negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement with Chile.

United States

The Government’s commitment to deepen further Australia’s close political, economic and strategic links with the United States was a major priority of the department. We supported the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Smith, co-hosting, along with the Minister for Defence, Mr Joel Fitzgibbon, the Australia–United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) consultations in Canberra on 23 February 2008. The talks, attended by US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and US Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, provided an early opportunity for the Government to make high-level contact with the US Administration and to underscore its strong commitment to the alliance as one of the three pillars of Australia’s foreign policy (along with a focus on the Asia–Pacific region and a commitment to multilateralism). The department worked with the Department of Defence to develop AUSMIN outcomes. They included: an agreement to work with the United States to build counter-terrorism and maritime security capacity in South-East Asia and advance bilateral defence cooperation, particularly in the areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster response; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and joint combined training capability.

The department supported a whole-of-government approach to Australia’s relations with the United States through its chairing of the inter-departmental United States Policy Group. The Group enhanced coordination among government agencies across the breadth and depth of the Australia-US relationship.

Photo - See caption below for description
The Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd and the United States President, Mr George W Bush, before their discussions in the Oval Office during Mr Rudd’s first official visit to the White House on 28 March 2008. Photo: Auspic
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department supported the visits by Mr Smith and Mr Crean to the United States in January–February 2008 to facilitate their early high-level engagement with the US Government. In conjunction with other agencies, the department supported the Prime Minister’s first visit to the United States in March 2008 and contributed to the negotiation of the bilateral ‘Open Skies’ air services agreement signed during the visit. We supported visits to the United States by six other federal ministers, including the Deputy Prime Minister, Ms Julia Gillard, in June 2008. To strengthen bilateral political links, we supported the participation by Australian ministers, parliamentary secretaries and parliamentarians in the West Coast Leadership Dialogue in San Diego and San Francisco in January 2008 and in the Australian–American Leadership Dialogue in Chicago and Washington in June 2008.

In conjunction with other agencies, the department provided support to President Bush’s successful bilateral visit to Australia in advance of APEC in September 2007. Outcomes of the visit included the signing of a Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty and a reciprocal working holiday arrangement, which enables Australian tertiary-level students or recent graduates of a tertiary institution to work and travel in the United States for up to a year. (Sub-output 1.1.8 provides further information about the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting.)

The department facilitated close coordination with the United States on our response to the common challenges of dealing with nuclear-proliferating states such as Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) (see sub-output 1.1.10 for more information), including through the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue with Japan. We used informal policy planning talks in November 2007 to discuss US thinking on strategic trends in South-East Asia and governance issues in the Pacific and East Timor. Cooperation at the policy and operational level on Afghanistan and counter-terrorism highlighted the contemporary relevance and adaptability of the alliance.

FIGURE 10. Australia’s trade in goods and services WITH the United States(a)

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.
Source: DFAT STARS database and ABS Catalogue 5368.0.

The department worked to deepen Australia’s trade relations and policy engagement with the United States. The department supported bilateral consultation between the Minister for Trade, Mr Crean, and United States Trade Representative (USTR), Ms Susan Schwab, including under the enhanced Australia–United States Ministerial trade talks (AUSMINTT) framework in Newark, New Jersey on 2 June 2008. The talks advanced bilateral cooperation on trade focusing, in particular, on concluding the Doha Round, pursuing a strong APEC and regional economic agenda and unlocking business opportunities from the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA). The department also supported the second ministerial review of AUSFTA between the former Minister for Trade, Mr Warren Truss and USTR Susan Schwab in Sydney in July 2007.

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Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Stephen Smith, with the United States Secretary of State, Dr Condoleezza Rice, at the State Department on 28 January 2008 in Washington DC.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

We took the lead in working with Australian lawyers, accountants and engineers to secure mutual recognition in key US markets through the AUSFTA professional services working group. We have secured recognition of the AUSFTA’s government procurement provisions in 31 US states and are seeking to extend this to the remaining states. In conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), the department pursued further market access for a range of Australian agricultural goods under AUSFTA resulting in the United States granting access for Australian cherries in January 2008. The department also initiated, for the first time, AUSFTA consultations with the United States to allow certain Australian textiles to enter the United States duty free.

The department worked closely with DAFF and industry through a DFAT-chaired joint working group to advocate reform of US farm subsidies and measures of specific concern to Australian grain, sugar, meat and dairy exporters in the 2008 US Farm Bill. Following the passage of the Farm Bill in June 2008, we continued to consult closely across government and with industry on its impacts and to respond to those measures of particular concern to Australian industry.

With other agencies, the department promoted Australia to a targeted US audience through Australia Week: G’day USA (now in its sixth year) held in Los Angeles and New York 17–26 January 2008. G’day USA is a coordinated program of diverse activities that promotes Australian culture, business, education, tourism and the arts. The event provides a focal point for Australian businesses seeking to expand trade and investment links with the United States, with more than 200 Australian companies involved in the 2008 program. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Smith, addressed a Financial Services Luncheon at Australia Week in New York that promoted Australia as a financial services provider and investment destination.

The department continued to contribute to the governance of the Australian–American Fulbright Commission and to sponsor a Fulbright Professional Award in Australia–United States Alliance Studies. The department strengthened links with academic institutions and think tanks, including the newly established United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, on developments in the Australia–United States relationship.


The department contributed to building momentum in Australia’s relations with Canada. We supported a visit to Australia by the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Stephen Harper, in September 2007, when he became the first Canadian Prime Minister to address the Australian Parliament. We supported Canadian ministers accompanying the Prime Minister, including the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Trade, Finance, Health and Natural Resources.

The department facilitated close coordination with Canada on our respective approaches to, and activities in, Afghanistan, where both countries have an ongoing role in securing and rebuilding the country. We also worked, in conjunction with other agencies, towards closer cooperation with Canada on counter-terrorism. The department continued its traditional collaboration with Canada as part of the CANZ (Canada–Australia–New Zealand) group in the United Nations (UN), an arrangement which effectively boosts the weight and influence of all three countries in a number of UN forums. We also coordinated Australian and Canadian approaches to issues in other multilateral forums, notably the WTO and APEC.

The department worked with Austrade and Tourism Australia on G’day Vancouver, a four-day event that provided a platform for Australian businesses, universities and governments to promote their products and services in western Canada. A concurrent sporting goods showcase featured nine Australian companies which were promoted to over 200 regional customers. We supported a Canada–Australia Dialogue (CAD) meeting on health, allowing policymakers from both countries to exchange ideas and experience in such areas as access to health care, aged care and cancer research.

Latin America and the Caribbean

The department enhanced Australia’s relations with Latin America by negotiating a new bilateral trade agreement, leading discussions to identify new opportunities for economic cooperation, and providing support to high-level visits in both directions. These initiatives and the ongoing work of the department helped contribute to a continued expansion in Australian trade and investment with Latin America during 2007–08. Australian investment in Latin America is significant and growing, particularly in the mining sector in Chile, Brazil and Mexico. The department supported visits to Australia by the Presidents of Mexico, Chile and Peru, plus a number of senior ministers from those countries, to attend APEC meetings hosted by Australia during 2007. Working with Austrade, we supported a visit to Chile, Brazil and Argentina by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade, Mr John Murphy, in April 2008. Mr Murphy attended a major regional mining trade show (ExpoMin) in Chile to promote Australian expertise in mining and mining services and opened new premises for the Consulate-General in Sao Paulo.

The department led a whole-of-government team that successfully negotiated a free trade agreement (FTA) with Chile. The negotiations were conducted over four rounds between September 2007 and May 2008, and resulted in a comprehensive, high quality final text. When it enters into force (both sides are aiming for 1 January 2009), the FTA should facilitate further growth in Australia’s commercial links with Chile. The department worked closely with Chilean officials to advance Australia’s objectives on a range of multilateral issues, including the WTO, the environment, whaling and Antarctica.

The department worked with a range of agencies to expand Australia’s relations with Brazil. Brazil plays an increasingly important role globally, including in multilateral forums. It is Australia’s largest export market in Latin America and our largest source of foreign students from the region. The department organised and hosted a high-level bilateral senior officials’ meeting in Canberra in May 2008, which highlighted common objectives in trade liberalisation and identified proposals for expanding bilateral commercial and science and technology linkages. The department also engaged closely with Brazil urging constructive engagement in the WTO Doha Round negotiations and support for an ambitious outcome.

The department supported Australia’s expanding commercial links with Mexico, particularly through its work on the Australia–Mexico Joint Experts Group (JEG) Report on Strengthening Bilateral Economic Relations. The JEG aims to identify opportunities to expand commercial activity between Australia and Mexico, to the benefit of both countries. Departmental and Mexican officials are working to finalise the report so it can be presented to the Australian and Mexican ministers responsible for trade in late 2008. In consultation with Austrade, we continued to work with Australian companies to identify opportunities for greater Australian involvement in Mexico’s energy sector, particularly through sales of coal and gas, and made representations to improve tendering procedures for coal and to remove specific market access barriers to trade in these commodities. The department also engaged Mexican officials to further Australia’s interests on a range of issues within APEC, the WTO and the United Nations. This engagement resulted, for example, in strong Mexican and Central American support for Australia’s principled policy stance on whaling.

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Minister for Trade, Mr Simon Crean, meeting with the United States Secretary of Agriculture, Mr Edward Schafer, at the Department of Agriculture, Washington DC on 31 January 2008.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department made representations to the Government of Argentina on behalf of Australian companies in response to changes in Argentinean policies on mining export taxes, which imposed additional burdens on mining companies. We provided assistance to Australian investors and exporters to address issues impacting on their businesses in Argentina. We continued our cooperation with Argentina on trade policy issues, in particular in seeking support for Australia’s objectives within the Cairns Group of Agricultural Exporting Countries.

The department posted additional diplomatic staff to the Austrade-managed Consulate-General in Lima, to advocate Australian interests to Peru during its year as host of APEC in 2008 and to ensure the effective management of senior Australian Government visits to APEC meetings in Peru through the year. We seconded an officer to Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assist Peru in its APEC preparations. This measure helped ensure a smooth transition of APEC hosting responsibilities from Australia to Peru, and supported our common interest in strengthening APEC.

At the third ministerial meeting of the Forum for East Asia–Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC) in Brasilia in August 2007 the department secured support for an initiative to promote best practice in counter-terrorism and closer collaboration across the two regions.

The department has worked closely with Australian Education International (AEI) in Colombia, supporting events such as Study in Australia festivals and promoting Australian education in the media. This contributed to a substantial increase in the number of Colombians enrolling in Australian education institutions (82 per cent annual growth in 2007). We also supported a week-long visit to Uruguay by a five-member Australian Parliamentary delegation, which strengthened our political linkages with that country.

The department continued to actively support the work of the Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR). COALAR sponsored a range of initiatives in business, tourism, education and culture, complementing the work of the department and adding depth to our bilateral relationships with Latin American countries. COALAR’s activities for 2007–08 are reported separately under sub-output 3.1.2.

The department provided support to Australian shipbuilder Austal in its successful bid for a $78 million order to build six patrol vessels for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard. This represents Australia’s largest single export sale to the Caribbean. Separately, we held targeted events in the region to raise awareness of Australia as a potential trade and investment partner.


Goods and services (a)

United States
Central America & Caribbean (c)
Brazil (b)
Argentina (b)
Total South America (b)
Total Americas

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
(b) Goods data only. Services data is not published by the ABS for these countries.
(c) Excluding Mexico.
Source: DFAT STARS database and ABS Catalogue 5368.0.


Deepening the US alliance will be a priority for the department, including at AUSMIN in the United States in 2009. We will be particularly focused on advancing Australia’s interests during the transition to a new Administration from January 2009. We will pursue actively Australia’s trade policy priorities with the United States and will look to convene the next meeting of AUSMINTT in Australia in 2009 to advance our multilateral, regional and bilateral trade interests. The department will continue to advocate improved market access for Australian industry and against measures that restrict trade.

The department will develop a strategy for closer engagement with Latin America, reflecting its growing economic and political importance. Brazil, the world’s tenth largest economy and Mexico, the world’s fifteenth largest economy, are key countries in the region. The department will facilitate the implementation of the Australia-Chile FTA. We will seek to take forward recommendations of the Joint Experts Group report with Mexico and provide continued support to growing Australian trade and investment in Latin America. We will seek to exploit the opportunities created by anticipated senior ministerial visits (both to and from Latin America) to strengthen relations and expand commercial links.

Our close relationship with Canada will continue to be significant for the department, with a particular emphasis on boosting economic and people-to-people linkages and deeper collaboration in international forums on issues of common interest.

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