Dominican Republic country brief

Overview

Australia and the Dominican Republic enjoy expanding relations based on trade, investment and cooperation on a range of international issues, including the environment, agricultural development, climate change, transnational crime and disarmament.

The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1997, when Australia’s first non-resident Ambassador, Mr Roger Frankel, presented credentials.  The Australian Embassy in Mexico City, is accredited concurrently to the Dominican Republic.  The Canadian Embassy in Santo Domingo provides consular assistance to Australians in the Dominican Republic. This service includes issuing provisional travel documents. The Australian Embassy in Mexico can also assist Australians in the Dominican Republic.  The Dominican Republic has consular offices in NSW, South Australia and Victoria.

The Dominican Republic consists of the eastern two thirds of the island of Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Caribbean after Cuba. On its western side the Dominican Republic shares a single, 376 kilometer border with the Republic of Haiti.  The Dominican Republic is part of the Greater Antilles, equidistant between Miami and Trinidad and Tobago.  The population of the Dominican Republic is approximately 10 million (2016).  95 per cent of the population identify as Roman Catholic. 

Political overview

Background

The Taino people moved onto Hispaniola around 650 BCE, displacing the original inhabitants and eventually dividing the island into five chiefdoms and territories. Christopher Columbus claimed the island on 5 December 1492, establishing a seat of Spanish power in the New World that would last, intermittently, until 30 November 1821, when it was occupied by neighboring Haiti for 22 years.  After a unique two year period when it was recognized once again as a Spanish colony (the only New World Country to voluntarily do so), before independence was restored in 1865.  The Dominican Republic was subsequently ruled by a series of short-lived military, corrupt or ineffectual dictatorships culminating in the 1930–1961 dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.

After Trujillo’s assassination in 1961, Joaquin Balaguer seized and maintained control of the Republic until 1996.  Since the end of Balaguer’s control in 1996, regular competitive elections have been held in which opposition candidates have won the presidency.  Danilo Medina was elected President in 2012 and reelected in 2016.

System of Government

The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy or democratic republic with three branches of power: executive, legislative and judicial. The president of the Dominican Republic heads the executive branch and executes laws passed by the congress, appoints the cabinet, and is commander in chief of the armed forces. The president and vice president run for office on the same ticket and are elected by direct vote for 4-year terms. The national legislature is bicameral, composed of a senate, which has 32 members, and the Chamber of Deputies, with 178 members. 

Recent developments

Recent reforms by President Medina have attempted to strengthen and diversify the economy of the Republic, as well as reform national tax laws.

Foreign Policy

The Dominican Republic has close economic, diplomatic and familial ties to the United States, and receives substantial reparations from citizens who have emigrated to the United States.  The Dominican Republic is a founding member of the United Nations and also a member of the Organization of American States, the Forum for East Asia Latin America Cooperation and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.  The Dominican Republic is an observer of the Pacific Alliance. The Dominican Republic, collectively with Central America, has had Free Trade Agreements with the United States since 2009 and with the European Union since 2012.

Bilateral relations

Australia and the Dominican Republic have long enjoyed friendly relations. Formal diplomatic relations were established in 1997.

In 2001, the Australian Government established the Council on Australia-Latin America Relations (COALAR) which aims to enhance commercial, political and cultural relations between Australia and Latin America. Since its inception, COALAR has been active in promoting business, education, tourism and cultural links between Australia and Latin America. For updates on COALAR activities and information on the annual grants program, follow COALAR on Facebook.

People to People Links

Citizens of the Dominican Republic are eligible to apply for Australia's Endeavour Awards Scholarships and Fellowships. The program opens annually in April and closes in June.

Development Assistance

Since 2010, citizens of the Dominican Republic has been eligible to receive Australia Award Fellowships and three awards have been granted to date.

The Australian Embassy in Mexico City manages a Direct Aid Program (DAP), which provides financial support to a broad range of activities across Central America and the Dominican Republic, including community development projects and projects designed to address challenges in vulnerable communities.  In 2016-17, DAP funding was provided to support the empowerment of children and young people against violence, to reduce poverty by improving the public education system through the inclusion of children with disabilities and to promote political participation of the LGBT community in the Dominican Republic.

Economic and trade policy overview

For latest economic data refer to: Dominican Republic Country Fact Sheet [PDF 31 KB]

The Dominican Republic was for most of its history primarily an exporter of sugar, coffee, and tobacco, but in recent years the service sector has overtaken agriculture as the economy's largest employer, due to growth in construction, tourism, and free trade zones. The mining sector has also played a greater role in the export market since late 2012 with the commencement of the extraction phase of the Pueblo Viejo Gold and Silver mine, one of the largest gold mines in the world.  High unemployment, a large informal sector, and underemployment remain important long-term challenges.

The economy is highly dependent upon the United States, the destination for approximately half of exports. Remittances from the US amount to about seven per cent of GDP, equivalent to about a third of exports and two-thirds of tourism receipts. The Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement came into force in March 2007, boosting investment and manufacturing exports.

The Dominican Republic's economy rebounded from the global recession in 2010-16, and the fiscal situation is improving. A tax reform package passed in November 2012, a reduction in government spending, and lower energy costs helped to narrow the central government budget deficit.  Since 2015 the Dominican Republic has posted the fastest economic growth in Latin America.

Trade and Investment

Economic and trade relationship

Australia's merchandise trade relationship with the Dominican Republic is modest. In 2015-16 total merchandise trade was approximately AUD$79 million. Australian exports to the Dominican Republic primarily comprised of paper and paperboard, meat, iron and steel and mechanical parts.  Major imports from the Dominican Republic to Australia included Medical instruments, liquefied propane and butane.

High level visits

Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Dr Sharman Stone, visited the Dominican Republic in June 2017


Last Updated: 5 September 2017