Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations 1998 Joint Communiqué

1. The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, and the Minister for Defence, Ian McLachlan, the United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and Secretary of Defence, William Cohen, met in Sydney on 30-31 July 1998 to advance further the Australia-U.S. alliance relationship, and to discuss regional and global issues.

2. Australia and the United States noted that the depth and maturity of the relationship and the scope of their common agenda underlined the enduring value and importance of these consultations. They welcomed the opportunity to exchange views and assessments, and to consider ways of advancing their common interest in global and regional peace and prosperity, and in the development of the bilateral relationship. Australia expressed support for continued, comprehensive U.S. engagement in the Asia Pacific which provides the underpinning for the security and stability of the region and its return to prosperity. The United States welcomed the important contribution that Australia's wide-ranging engagement in the Asia Pacific continues to make to regional security and stability. Ministers reaffirmed their strong commitment to the 1996 Sydney Statement, observing that events over the past year had confirmed once again the special quality of the partnership between the two countries.

3. Ministers focused particularly on two developments with important implications for regional and global stability and security:

  • First, developments in the Asia Pacific, with particular emphasis on the Asian financial crisis, including measures to enhance Australia-U.S. cooperation to promote a secure and prosperous region; and
  • Second, events in South Asia, with particular emphasis on the ramifications of India's and Pakistan's nuclear test explosions, and the crucial importance of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as two global pillars of the international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime.


4. With profound economic, political and strategic changes underway in the Asia Pacific region, Australia and the United States emphasised the importance of practical and well-focused bilateral, regional and global cooperation in helping the Asia Pacific to meet current and emerging difficulties. The Asian financial crisis continues to pose major challenges for affected regional countries, with wider implications for the Asia Pacific and globally. The two governments expressed confidence that the fundamental regional strengths which had generated prosperity and stability in the Asia Pacific would provide the basis for regional recovery over the longer term.

5. Sound macroeconomic policies, stronger and more transparent financial systems, structural reform and more open markets are the key to restoring financial stability and confidence in the economic health of countries affected by the financial crisis. Implementation of economic reform programs supported by the international financial institutions will continue to have a central role in helping to restore financial and monetary stability in the region, and in alleviating the wider social impact of the crisis. The two governments underlined the importance of social policies which address the burden of the economic adjustment on the poor and most vulnerable members of affected countries. Australia and the United States expressed strong support for the continued leadership shown by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, in mobilising financial and other assistance for countries affected by the crisis. Both governments expressed their support for the on-going efforts of international financial institutions to tailor their assistance programs to meet the needs of individual countries. Australia and the United States recognised the important role played by APEC in responding to the crisis, including in holding the line on free trade and in endorsing the Manila Framework, which facilitates bilateral assistance to those countries in the region requiring balance of payments support, as well as the work arising from the Special Meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors held in Washington in April 1998.

6. Australia and the United States agreed that international assistance to support economic reform should continue to be based on progress in implementing economic adjustment goals. Australia strongly supported the efforts of the U.S. administration to obtain Congressional approval for contributing to the IMF's Eleventh General Quota Increase. The United States welcomed Australia's contribution to the management of the international response to the economic crisis, and its role as a source of support to countries affected by the economic downturn. The two governments praised Thailand and the Republic of Korea on the progress made thus far in stabilising their economies and implementing appropriate financial sector reforms.

7. Recent events have underscored the significant influence which Indonesia has on the stability, security and prosperity of South East Asia and the wider region. Australia and the United States emphasised their conviction that Indonesia was in transition to a new era and both sides expressed strong support for the Indonesian Government's commitment to political reform and the staging of early elections consistent with the aspirations of all Indonesians. Both sides urged all parties in Indonesia to continue to give priority to an orderly and peaceful transition. The two governments expressed their common resolve to continue to help Indonesia overcome its pressing economic difficulties, including increased humanitarian assistance, as Indonesia proceeds with its commitment to implementing economic reform in close cooperation with the IMF. Both governments urged all parties to exercise utmost restraint in pursuit of a lasting solution to the future of East Timor.

8. Strong and confident bilateral and regional relationships are the foundation of the Asia Pacific's efforts to manage the financial crisis and its wider implications. Australia and the United States undertook to continue to work closely together, and with others in the region, to help the region overcome the financial crisis. The two governments welcomed the increased level of bilateral consultation and exchange of information and assessments on economic and financial developments in the region, including through key regional and international institutions, and agreed to maintain this enhanced cooperation and dialogue. Both sides underlined the importance of promoting good governance and national institution-building in the Asia Pacific, including implementation of the program agreed by APEC Finance Ministers, and more broadly in APEC, through the development of projects aimed at enhancing economic governance in the region.

9. Australia and the United States resolved to keep their markets open and called on other countries to do likewise. In this regard, both governments welcomed the reaffirmation by APEC leaders in November 1997 of their commitment to implement the Bogor Declaration for free trade and investment in the region by 2010/2020, and recognised the importance of the preparatory process for the next World Trade Organisation (WTO) round of multilateral trade negotiations. The two governments agreed on the imperative for APEC to conclude in November the Early Voluntary Sectoral Liberalisation initiative approved by APEC leaders in November 1997 and to press ahead with further improvements in Individual Action Plans.

10. In a transition period marked by rapid change, effective and dynamic relationships between the major regional powers are a vital component of the region's strategic resilience. Australia expressed continued support for the U.S.-Japan alliance as a central element in the region's security architecture, and welcomed the recognition by the U.S. and Japanese governments of the importance in the region of their relationship. Australia and the United States welcomed the formation of a new administration in Japan and looked to the Government of Japan to take strong action to restore and strengthen the Japanese economy. Australia and the United States agreed continued implementation of policies to advance economic growth in Japan would have significant benefits, both economic and strategic, for the Asia Pacific region. The United States and Australia welcomed recent positive developments in relations between Japan and China, and between Japan and Russia, as important steps in fostering the Asia Pacific's growing sense of community and cooperative endeavour.

11. Australia and the United States also acknowledged the profound importance of the U.S.-China relationship to regional security and prosperity. Australia welcomed the successful visit of President Clinton to China in June-July 1998, and congratulated the United States and China on recent progress made in their relationship. Both sides emphasised the essentiality of comprehensive and practical engagement with China, and of supporting China's development as a stable, open and prosperous power, and a strong and constructive partner in the international community. Both governments agreed that a "one-China" policy best served the region's interest in stability and prosperity.

12. Australia welcomed the continuing U.S. commitment to security and stability on the Korean peninsula, expressed through the maintenance of the important U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) security relationship, its active participation in the Four Party peace process, and its leading role in the Korea Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (KEDO). The United States welcomed Australia's latest contribution to KEDO. Australia and the United States agreed KEDO has provided a critical vehicle to avoid nuclear proliferation in North Korea while promoting confidence building and constructive engagement between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the broader international community.

13. Australia and the United States emphasised that the further development of regional multilateral security dialogue would help strengthen the existing web of mutually supportive regional relationships. The two sides stressed the importance of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in promoting and enhancing security dialogue in the Asia Pacific. Both sides expressed satisfaction with the ARF's development and emphasised their continued commitment to strengthening the ARF's work on confidence building measures and to the development of a preventive diplomacy role for the ARF.


14. Australia and the United States reaffirmed their strong conviction that the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and the delivery systems for such weapons, pose serious challenges for global and regional security. The two governments place enduring value on the effective implementation of non-proliferation and arms control regimes as the foundation of global and regional efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and to enable their eventual elimination. The United States and Australia stressed the crucial importance of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) as pillars of the global non-proliferation and disarmament regime. The United States congratulated Australia for its ratification of the CTBT. Both sides expressed strong support for the prompt establishment of the CTBT's global verification regime and development of the Treaty's institutional structure in Vienna, and for the immediate commencement in the Conference on Disarmament of negotiations on a treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices (FMCT). Both sides agreed that the FMCT and CTBT would provide important non-proliferation as well as disarmament benefits. Australia and the United States agreed on the urgency of the START II Treaty entering into force so that the major nuclear arsenal reductions provided for in that Treaty could be implemented, and so as to clear the way for the expeditious conclusion of a START III agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation.

15. The United States expressed strong support for Australia's proposal to convene a high level meeting to highlight the political and security imperatives of concluding, as soon as possible, a draft protocol to strengthen compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention through the Ad Hoc Group negotiations. Both governments reaffirmed their shared commitment to an effective global ban on anti-personnel landmines and agreed to continue to work closely on this issue, including the negotiation of a transfer ban in the Conference on Disarmament. They reiterated the importance of effectively targeted international contributions to humanitarian de-mining and mine victim assistance programs as a complement to efforts to achieve a global ban. Australia and the United States look forward to continued dialogue on these and other security issues at the next Australia-U.S. political-military talks and disarmament consultations.

16. Ministers considered the recent nuclear tests by India and Pakistan a source of deep and lasting concern, coming at a time when the commitment of the international community to nuclear non-proliferation and its confidence in effective progress on nuclear disarmament has never been stronger. These tests had affected both countries' relationships with the United States and Australia and had diminished rather than enhanced their security and their international standing. Australia and the United States pledged their full support for the benchmarks outlined in the communique issued by the P-5 in Geneva on 4 June, UNSC Resolution 1172, and the 12 June G-8 Foreign Ministers communique. They both expressed the strong hope that India and Pakistan would decide not to take the fateful further step of deploying nuclear armed weapons systems. We have agreed to continue to work closely together and with others to prevent an accelerating nuclear and missile arms race in South Asia, to strengthen the international non-proliferation regime, and to promote reconciliation and peaceful resolution of differences between India and Pakistan.

17. Australia and the United States emphasised the importance to their national interests, and the interests of the international community, that Iraq abide by its international obligations to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction capability. Australia congratulated the United States on the leadership it had shown on this protracted issue. The United States expressed its warm appreciation for Australian Defence Force deployment to the Gulf as part of the U.S.-led military coalition. Both governments called on Iraq to comply fully with the UN Security Council resolutions on the declaration, verification and destruction of its weapons of mass destruction capability. The two sides reaffirmed their continued commitment to the UN Special Commission's efforts to account for and destroy Iraq's chemical and biological weapons and long range ballistic missiles and to the International Atomic Energy Agency's on-going monitoring and verification activities.

18. Australia and the United States reconfirmed their commitment to the reform and reinvigoration of the United Nations system to enable it to face the challenges of the next century. Australia expressed its disappointment that the United States Administration and Congress had not resolved differences over payment of UN assessments and expressed concern for the effective functioning of the UN.

19. The United States and Australia expressed their strong commitment to effective global action on climate change, noting that an effective global response to the problem cannot be found through commitments by Annex I countries alone, and agreed to continue their close cooperation within the Umbrella Group of countries to develop a satisfactory and cost efficient framework for international greenhouse gas emissions trading. Both governments noted the need to ensure that the proposed biosafety protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity protects biological diversity while not hindering international trade. The United States expressed its appreciation for Australia's hosting of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) Secretariat during the past two years. Both sides noted the continued threat to the world's coral reefs - as recently witnessed by the extensive coral bleaching on the Great Barrier reef - and agreed to continue actively supporting ICRI. Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to implement criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. The two governments expressed their commitment to continue to work with regional countries to address fire and haze problems and to develop sustainable solutions for the underlying causes of the fires aimed at long term fire prevention. This would include long term, regionally-oriented solutions.

20. The two governments reaffirmed the importance of close cooperation between them in efforts to counter international terrorism, including in the context of the hosting by Australia and the United States respectively of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002.

21. Ministers noted the great value to both Governments of the exchange of intelligence and assessments in understanding global developments.


22. Australia and the United States welcomed the fact that defence cooperation under the alliance remained vibrant and forward-looking. Ministers restated their view that the several U.S. alliance relationships in the Asia Pacific and the forward deployment of U.S. forces are a fundamental element of the security regime in the region. Ministers welcomed the fact that these arrangements provide a secure foundation on which the region is building a more multifaceted security regime and seeking to share security responsibilities. Australia also made it clear that it would continue to support this U.S. posture in practical ways, including through access to Australian ports and airfields and providing areas for joint and unilateral training, exercises, and tests of new capabilities. Ministers expressed satisfaction with the progress being made on developing training areas in Northern Australia to allow larger-scale exercises by U.S. ground forces. Ministers also agreed to simplify the procedures for providing diplomatic clearance for visiting naval vessels to reflect the importance of ship visits to the relationship.

23. The two governments emphasised that a high degree of interoperability between their armed forces was a hallmark of the alliance. Ministers stressed their determination to continue to make interoperability a priority goal, particularly in view of the challenges posed by rapid technological change, especially in the information arena. In the light of this outlook and the lessons from the recent coalition operations in the Gulf, they agreed to renew the focus of joint training and exercises on this objective; to broaden the exposure of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to U.S. theatre commands other than Pacific Command through personnel exchanges with Central Command and Atlantic Command; to intensify collaboration between the respective national force elements exploring the ramifications of the Revolution in Military Affairs for the conduct of military operations; and to facilitate access to particular U.S. technologies important to the effectiveness of the ADF and its capacity to contribute to coalition operations, notably in the submarine, airborne early warning and control, and combat aircraft fields. Ministers also endorsed a reciprocal fellowship program involving the National Defence University in the United States and the Australian Defence College to develop further mutual understanding of defence cultures.

24. Australia and the United States agreed on the centrality of the `knowledge edge' to the successful conduct of military operations. Ministers observed that intelligence was one critical factor in the knowledge edge and that Australia and the United States continued to enjoy a particularly close and productive partnership in this area. Ministers also agreed on the importance of emerging new capabilities for wide-area surveillance. They endorsed a program of cooperative research and development and joint investigation of the doctrinal implications of these new capabilities and looked forward to a long-term partnership in this field. In view of the diversity of collaborative activities, Ministers endorsed a proposal to establish a new committee to coordinate and promote cooperation in equipment acquisition, technology and support.

25. The Ministers welcomed the recent 10-year extension of the treaty governing the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap. They noted the planned closure in 1999 of the ballistic missile early warning facility at Nurrungar and expressed confidence that the closure of the facility and the United States Air Force withdrawal from Woomera would be managed to the satisfaction of both sides. They further agreed that it would be appropriate to commemorate the critical function Nurrungar has performed over some 30 years with a ceremony involving senior officials from both sides. At the same time, they expressed their pleasure that Australia-U.S. cooperation in this field would continue in new ways, including Australian involvement in the management of the Relay Ground Station for early warning data to be located at Pine Gap, in the data processing operation in the United States, and in associated research development.


26. Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to the liberalisation of global trade and investment as fundamental to global and regional security and prosperity. They underlined their support for a clear and enforceable rules-based system governing international trade and investment. Both governments welcomed the positive outcome of the second WTO Ministerial Conference in May 1998 which laid the groundwork for a new comprehensive round of multilateral trade negotiations, including preparation for agricultural negotiations in 1999. Australia welcomed the leadership shown by the United States both through President Clinton's statement at Geneva on 18 May in support of negotiations to secure a more open global trading system, and the U.S. offer to host the third WTO Ministerial Conference in 1999. Australia strongly supported the continuing efforts of the United States to obtain Fast Track authority for free trade negotiations. The United States commended Australia's continued leadership of the Cairns Group of agricultural fair trading nations, and committed to work cooperatively with the Cairns Group to liberalise further global agricultural trade in the next round of WTO negotiations, commencing in 1999.

27. As an integral part of maintaining and enhancing their bilateral relationship, Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to reducing and eliminating barriers to trade, to expanding bilateral trade and investment ties, and to working collaboratively to address outstanding issues. The two sides commended the close and ongoing consultations held over the last year, highlighted by the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks in April 1998. Australia and the United States emphasised the importance of liberalising agricultural trade, including by removing trade-distorting subsidies. The United States reiterated that it would continue to seek to avoid using the Export Enhancement Program (EEP) and the Dairy Export Incentive Program (DEIP) in ways that undermine Australia's interests. Australia and the United States reiterated their willingness to work constructively on issues of bilateral trade concern, including sanitary and phytosanitary and subsidy issues, and to continue cooperation on other trade and investment matters.

28. Recalling their shared interest in helping the Asia Pacific recover from the regional economic crisis, both governments agreed that carefully considered and well-targeted export credits, which did not distort traditional patterns of trade or disrupt markets, were a legitimate and important means of assisting countries affected by the crisis.


29. Both sides reaffirmed the value of annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations, and the United States invited Australia to take part in the next round of talks in the United States in 1999.

Sydney, 31 July 1998

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Last Updated: 24 January 2013
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