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


In 2010 Australia and the United States marked the 70th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations, a partnership which continues to deepen and adapt to meet contemporary strategic challenges.

Australia’s relationship with the United States is fundamental to our broader international security and economic endeavours. The department pursued initiatives which demonstrated the ability of the Australia-United States alliance to adapt to 21st century challenges and to the shifting power dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region. The department participated actively in key events which advanced the Government’s objective to strengthen the global economy and security in cooperation with the United States, notably the Australia–United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in Melbourne in November 2010, the 2011 APEC year hosted by the United States and the United States’ entry into the East Asia Summit. The department also supported visits to the United States by the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd and Dr Emerson.

The department expanded Australia’s bilateral dialogue with Canada on global and regional developments and intensified our already close cooperation in key multilateral forums such as the G20, UN and the Commonwealth. To broaden private sector ties, we provided strong support to the establishment of the inaugural Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum in Sydney in November 2010.

Recognising the growing significance of Latin America and the Caribbean to Australia’s interests, the department strengthened engagement with the region by developing linkages with regional organisations and intensifying bilateral contacts. The department also liaised closely with AusAID on Australia’s development assistance programs for Latin America and the Caribbean.

United States

Photo - See caption below for description
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, with United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in Washington D.C. on 17 September 2010.

The department facilitated many high-level visits which advanced Australia’s regional and global security, economic and trade objectives.

In March 2011, the Prime Minister met President Barack Obama and US Cabinet members and addressed a joint sitting of the US Congress. Mr Rudd visited the United States in September 2010 and May 2011 to discuss with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior Administration officials global and regional security issues and bilateral cooperation. Dr Emerson visited the United States in September 2010 to meet his US counterparts, in particular US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs, Dr Michael Froman. Dr Emerson again visited the United States in May 2011 for the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting in Big Sky, Montana. Mr Rudd and Dr Emerson also met Congressional leaders and key Committee Chairs during their visits.

In its 25th anniversary year, Mr Rudd and the Minister for Defence, Mr Smith, hosted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at AUSMIN in Melbourne in November 2010. The meeting produced agreements on space and cyber security, cooperation on the United States’ Global Force Posture Review and elevated Australia–United States dialogue on East Asia.

The Government’s long-term foreign policy objectives were supported by focusing with the United States on the changing regional geopolitical circumstances, including the rise of China and India, and developments in the Middle East.

We contributed to Australia’s cooperation with the United States on its Global Force Posture Review through a bilateral working group established at AUSMIN 2010. The department pursued strategies with the United States to promote stability and prosperity in East Asia, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean regions. The department maintained close dialogue with the United States on the conduct of the international mission in Afghanistan, on coordinated planning in response to the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea and on the threat of terrorism. At officials’ level, the department led the inter-departmental US Policy Group, which coordinates Government agencies’ work on the bilateral relationship.

Dr Emerson advanced a broad trade agenda with the United States, advocating a strong commitment to multilateral trade liberalisation through the WTO Doha Round and
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. We worked closely with the United States to support its objectives in its APEC host year in 2011.

We facilitated Dr Emerson’s attendance at the Global Services Summit in Washington in September 2010, where he called for progress on the WTO Doha Round and an ambitious outcome for services. The United States continues to be Australia’s largest two-way services partner, with trade valued at $15.1 billion in 2010. The United States was Australia’s third-largest trading partner in 2010, with goods and services trade worth $49.8 billion, a slight decline on the previous year even as global trade continued to recover from the global financial crisis.

The United States remains Australia’s largest total two-way investment partner and continues to show strong growth. Between December 2009 and December 2010 the stock of investment increased almost five per cent to $960 billion, with US direct investment in Australia increasing more than 20 per cent on the previous year.


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.

As the US economy recovers from recession, the Administration has focused on fiscal consolidation and job creation. The department continued to monitor US legislative proposals to stimulate the US economy and made representations to the Administration and Congressional representatives on the importance of avoiding protectionism and unnecessary regulatory barriers, including in government procurement, services and industry restructuring packages.

The department advanced the objectives of the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) as it moved into its seventh year of operation, including through bilateral FTA reviews and consultations in July 2010 and April 2011. In May 2011 the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties scrutinised the department’s proposed amendment to the AUSFTA to modify the Rules of Origin for certain clothing yarns traded with the United States. The United States has agreed to this amendment (see Bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations 1.1.7).

In response to the US Senate ratifying the Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty in October 2010, the department is assisting the Department of Defence to complete the necessary steps for Australia to ratify the treaty. When the treaty enters into force, it will establish a comprehensive framework for two-way trade between Australia and the United States in defence articles, without the need for export licences. This should improve export opportunities for Australian companies and marks a significant step for the alliance.

We advanced high-level Australia–United States engagement and exchange by assisting with the February 2011 visit to Australia by a US Congressional delegation. In March 2011, the department hosted a visit to Australia by a delegation of US Congressional staffers on the theme of Asia-Pacific security. In the same month, under the Special Visits Program, the department hosted a visit to Australia by Ms Joan Rohlfing, President of the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Australian business, education and culture were promoted in the United States by 40 G’Day USA 2011 events on oceanography, clean energy, water management, sustainable cities, Asia, innovation, cinema, sport, food and wine in eleven cities (Boston, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Palm Springs, Sacramento, 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 sponsors two awards: the Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Australia–US Alliance Studies and the Anniversary Scholarship.

TABLE 3. Australia’s Trade in Goods and Services with the Americas(a)

  Exports Exports   Imports(b) Imports(b)  
Goods and services 2009 2010 Trend growth
2009 2010 Trend growth
  $m $m % $m $m %
United States 15,234 14,500 1.0 34,763 35,271 4.2
Canada 2,196 2,013 -3.1 2,730 2,550 0.6
Mexico 897 789 -1.4 1,240 1,459 9.5
Total NAFTA 18,327 17,302 0.4 38,733 39,280 4.1
Central America &
Caribbean (c)
385 404 11.7 929 972 10.7
Brazil (d) 921 1,574 11.2 630 758 -1.0
Chile 412 450 15.1 838 1,133 41.4
Argentina (d) 202 340 16.0 366 286 13.0
Total South America 2,846 3,581 16.3 2,352 2,713 14.0
Total Americas 21,557 21,287 2.4 39,461 40,248 3.2

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
(b) With the exception of the United States, imports total excludes imports of ABS confidential items (mainly aircraft).
(c) Excluding Mexico.
(d) Goods data only. Services data is not published by the ABS for these countries.
Figures may not add due to rounding.
Based on DFAT STARS database, ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004 and unpublished ABS data.


The department reinforced our close cooperation with Canada in areas of common interest, including in key multilateral forums such as the G20, the UN and the Commonwealth. The department also worked hard to expand cooperation into new areas. We worked closely with Canada, bilaterally and in the Bali Process, on people smuggling issues and provided strong support for AusAID’s deepening engagement with the Canadian International Development Agency.

The department was also active in strengthening the bilateral relationship with Canada, one of our oldest and most valued diplomatic partners. In addition to expanding our bilateral dialogue on global issues, we provided significant support to the inaugural Australia–Canada Economic Leadership Forum in Sydney in November 2010 which brought together senior business figures, academics and journalists from both countries to identify new opportunities for cooperation. An Australia-Canada Roundtable on the Recognition of Foreign Qualifications held in Melbourne in April 2011 highlighted the benefits that could be achieved from increased labour mobility between the two countries.

We also worked closely with Canada in responding to international developments that had the potential to threaten Australians overseas. Working with Canada we were able to provide consular services to Australians in a number of countries where Australia is not represented. Canada’s willingness to evacuate Australians from Cairo and Tripoli earlier this year again highlighted the direct benefits of close collaboration with Canada on consular issues (see Consular services 2.1).

Latin America and the Caribbean

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The Minister for Trade, Dr Emerson, and Brazilian Minister of External Relations, Mr Antonio Patriota, in the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on 27 January 2011.

Reflecting the increasing importance of Brazil to Australia, the department concluded negotiations on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Establishment of an Enhanced Partnership with Brazil which was signed in New York by Mr Rudd and his then Brazilian counterpart, Dr Celso Amorim, in September 2010. The department led bilateral senior officials talks under this MOU in Brasilia as well as senior officials talks with Argentina in October 2010.

The department facilitated Mr Rudd’s visit to Brazil in December 2010 to attend the Mercosur Joint Ministerial Council Meeting and Leaders’ Summit. Mercosur is a customs union comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. This marked the first time an Australian minister had addressed the Council. The department worked with New Zealand on a Joint Declaration on Further Cooperation between Australia, New Zealand and Mercosur, which was issued during the visit. The department supported AusAID in developing a new cooperation program with Latin America, which was announced by Mr Rudd during his visit to Brazil. It will provide $100 million in assistance over four years, including through increased scholarships and trilateral cooperation programs. The department helped finalise an MOU with Brazil on Cooperation in Major Sports Events, signed by Mr Rudd. It will identify and promote commercial opportunities associated with major sports events in the lead up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics, both in Brazil.

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L–R: Chilean Ambassador to Australia, HE Mr Pedro Pablo Diaz, Chilean Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alfredo Moreno, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, in Chile on 18 December 2010.
Photo: Veronica Caceres

The Australian embassy in Lima opened in September 2010. Senior officials talks were held with Peru in May 2011 and agreement reached to develop an MOU on Political Consultations.

We hosted visits to Australia in May 2011 by Vice-Minister for Trade, Dr Gabriel Duque, and Vice-Minister for Multilateral Affairs, Dr Patti Londoño, from Colombia. We led senior officials’ talks on multilateral and trade issues in Canberra following bilateral talks in Bogota, in May 2011. The first department-led officials-level meeting to review implementation of the Australia–Chile Free Trade Agreement took place in Santiago in May 2011.

The department continued to support the work of the Council on Australia Latin America Relations in business, education, sustainability, tourism and cultural promotion. The department supported the Council’s work with major partners including Austrade; the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations; Latin American diplomatic missions in Canberra; and the Australia–Latin America Business Council to further Australia’s interests (see Public information services and public diplomacy 1.1.13).

Photo - See caption below for description
Prime Minister Gillard with Mexican President Mr Felipe Calderón at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Seoul in November 2010.
Photo: Copyright Auspic

Mexico remains a priority country for Australia’s focus in the region. The department has built on momentum set by ministerial meetings in 2009, both bilaterally and through multilateral cooperation on key issues. Officials worked together in the lead up to Mexico’s chairing of the G20 in 2012 and through Australia’s engagement in the Green Climate Fund Transitional Committee.

Officials from our embassy in Mexico City made regular visits to Central America to expand our understanding and explore options to deepen our engagement with this region. These visits included attendance at the Central American Integration System conference on regional security in June 2011.

The department supported a visit to Panama in April 2011 by an Australian parliamentary delegation led by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Jenkins. We facilitated the Speaker’s involvement at an event to mark the appointment of Australia’s first honorary consul to Panama.

The department helped to consolidate our relations with the Caribbean region through engagement with the Caribbean community (CARICOM) by participating in the inaugural Australia-CARICOM senior officials’ meeting in December 2010 in Guyana. We supported Mr Rudd’s participation in the regional foreign ministers’ meeting in St Kitts and Nevis in May 2011. Participants outlined the strong progress made against commitments under the Australia–CARICOM MOU, signed in 2009. Posts in the region have helped AusAID deliver a development assistance program targeted at key areas of concern, including climate change and disaster risk reduction measures.

The department’s ability to provide consular services and strengthen regional engagement has been improved by the appointment of honorary consuls in Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Grenada and Guyana. In April 2011, the department hosted Ambassador Evadne Coye, Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Jamaica, under the Special Visits Program to explore opportunities to enhance the relationship.

The department implemented commitments made by the Cuban and Australian Foreign Ministers in 2009–10 to enhance people-to-people links between Australia and Cuba and to work together to improve health outcomes in the Caribbean. Dr Felix Alfonso, from the Office of the Historian of Old Havana, visited Australia in May 2011 under the department’s International Cultural Visits Program (see Public information services and public diplomacy 1.1.13). The department supported development of an agreement signed in June 2011 between AusAID and its Cuban counterpart to deliver medical services in Haiti. Recent economic and social reform in Cuba and an apparent greater openness to tourism and foreign investment are being monitored closely.

Personal Profile:

Photo - See caption below for description
John Woods

John Woods

“It is exciting and a great honour to be Australia’s first resident Ambassador to Peru for twenty-five years and to be expanding and strengthening our bilateral relations with a country that has enjoyed one of the best growth rates in Latin America over the last decade”.

Having worked on Latin American and Caribbean issues in the department from 2006 to 2010, and having served as Ambassador to Venezuela from 2000 to 2003, John Woods had developed expertise on Latin America prior to his arrival in Lima to open the Australian Embassy in September 2010. Re-establishing the Embassy fulfilled a commitment given by then Prime Minister Rudd to Peru’s President Garcia in November 2008.

John advocates Australia’s policies on regional and multilateral issues to the Peruvian Government, as well as consolidating Australia’s increasingly important investment and trade relationship with Peru. He has also pursued new development cooperation and cultural links with Peru, giving substance to the Government’s strategy to enhance and deepen Australia’s relations not just with Peru, but more broadly with Latin America.

John pays tribute to the hard work and cooperation of all the staff involved, to the strong support given by his spouse and to the excellent assistance from Austrade, in setting up the new Embassy and expanding Australia’s profile and influence in Peru. The support given by the Peruvian Government and the Peruvian people has also been very helpful in the opening of the Embassy.


We will continue to work closely with the United States to advance our interests as new security and economic challenges arise globally and in our region. We will do so in ways which enhance Australia’s other regional relationships, notably with China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and ASEAN members. AUSMIN 2011 will provide an opportunity to capitalise on the strong momentum in the bilateral relationship as we approach the final year of this US presidential term (2012). We will engage with the Administration, Congress, and Australian and US business interests to enhance and strengthen commercial and people-to-people links. We will work with domestic and US authorities on the operation of the AUSFTA, to ensure it continues to operate transparently, in a manner which enhances the trading relationship and to benefit businesses in Australia and the United States.

The department will build on recent efforts to intensify links with Canada following the re-election of the Canadian Government with a secure majority in May 2011. New formal mechanisms for consultations with a variety of countries in the region are in place to strengthen engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean. These include institutionalised relationships with regional organisations, and arrangements to establish regular bilateral political and trade consultations. We will continue to encourage and facilitate two-way visits by leaders, ministers and senior officials as well as meetings in the margins of international events.

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