Heads of government
Australia's international relations policies
Heads of Government of the United States, Great Britain and Australia have always considered particularly important the close alliance and partnership between the countries. In recent decades, Australia's international relations have been based on close relations with the U.S. and New Zealand through the organization of the ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty), with Southeast Asia through the ASEAN, and with Oceania in the Pacific Islands Forum. The main efforts of the state are aimed at liberalizing trade. Australia also provides assistance to many developing countries.
Until the mid-20th century, the foreign policy of Australia was carried out by London. Australia participated in the Second World War on the side of Great Britain and the USA. At the final stage of the War, the U.S. and Australia created anti-fascist united front. After the war, Australia became a strategic U.S. ally in the Pacific; its foreign policy was concentrated at the U.S., which sometimes mirrored in domestic policy and the bilateral relations of these countries (Devetak, 2009).
In 1951, in Washington an agreement was signed on the establishment of the Pacific security pact (ANZUS), which included Australia, New Zealand and the USA. In 1954 Australia was also one of the founders of the Treaty of Southeast Asia (SEATO) (Lee, 1995). Australia is a member of the regional economic organizations: the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Council Pacific Cooperation, etc. Since the coming of G. Whitlam's Labour government Australia's foreign policy became more independent, given that the threat of communist expansion in the region at that time began to decline. After coming to power of Labourists in 1983 Australia was the initiator of a nuclear-free zone in the South Pacific (in particular, the Rorotonga contract 1985 on the limitation of placing nuclear weapons).
The main foreign-policy dilemma for Australia is to maintain a balance between the country's closeness to the Asia-Pacific region and the dominant Western political culture. To the north of Australia there are the countries that had the most dynamic economy until the Asian economic crisis of 1997-1998. However, in the recent past, Australia, as a rule, conducted its foreign policy, primarily, in accordance with the position of Britain, its metropolis, which it still retains close ties within the Commonwealth of Nations and beginning in mid-20th century, with the U.S., an ally in the military-political bloc ANZUS.
Since the end of 1970s Australia's foreign policy has moved to a more open and friendly relations with countries in the Asian region. This change was triggered by the increasing proportion of Asian immigrants in the country's population. Australia initiated the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 1989, which aims at the removal of trade barriers between countries of the region (Lee, 1995).
Since then, the organization the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum became a leading forum in the Asia-Pacific region (Clapton, 2009). Through this organization its member countries strengthen regional links and follow the path to achieve common trade and economic goals. Membership in this organization expands Australia's opportunities, promotes the country's exit beyond its domestic market and offers great opportunities for creating new jobs and profits. Australia's business provides services to over 2.5 billion consumers, accounting for about 60% of total income received by the member countries of the Organization of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Lyons, 2005).
These countries also get nearly three-quarters of total exports of Australia. Over the past decade, exports of member countries of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation has more than doubled and amounted to almost 5 trillion Australian dollars. Furthermore, the member-countries of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation created 195 million new jobs, the economic growth in these countries amounted to 70% of world economic growth. Therefore, it is not surprising that Australia is primarily to develop trade relations with countries-members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Clapton, 2009).
The Government of John Howard that was in power from 1996 to 2007 pursued a foreign policy oriented to the priority of the development of relations with traditional allies of Australia - U.S. and Britain - harmfully to the support of international multilateral efforts within the UN. Bush administration signed the security agreement with the Australian Government. This document contributed to bilateral cooperation in the sphere of national defense, combating terrorism, exchange of the latest military technology and equipment, etc.
The Australian Government was in favor of maintaining good relations with regional powers - such as China, Japan and Indonesia, despite problems emerging sometimes here like the situation around East Timor. Australia increases its involvement in solving the internal problems of its neighbors - Papua - New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Nauru (Clapton, 2009).
Australia has long cooperated on security and intelligence issues with key strategic partners. In addition to formal agreements and bilateral cooperation in defense and police in Asia-Pacific region, the authorities are negotiating with other countries, which leads to better understanding and achievement of common interests.
Australia's foreign policy has been formulated three-sided, based on a strategic partnership with the United States, an active role in international organizations (especially UN), and close cooperation with the Asia-Pacific region. After Australian troops were withdrawn from Iraq, the new government began to actively support the creation of a unified political and economic alliance in Asia-Pacific region on the model of EU. Australia's economic policy was adjusted according to G-20 Summit and the APEC meeting held in 2008.
In the area of bilateral relations the union of Australia and the U.S. is still of paramount importance. The country maintains a special relationship with Japan, its most important trading partner. Maintaining good relations with Indonesia, given its geopolitical location and population, is also a foreign policy priority forcing Australia to come to terms with the Indonesian annexation of East Timor. The growing trade ties with China are likely to get even more profound development in the future. Traditionally friendly relations with Britain have enhanced with leaving behind the colonial experience and with the reorientation of the interests of the former empire to the internal affairs of the European Union, with which Australia, in turn, tends to work more closely (Kelton, 2006).
Neorealist concept of international relations adequately reflects the current security situation in the Asia-Pacific region. Even after the end of bipolar confrontation, there are still many elements of the Cold War, which are unlikely to be eradicated in the near future. This situation radically affects international policies of the USA and Australia, forming their common approaches to security (Searle, 2004).
There's active economic and political interaction between the USA and Australia: close contacts in the field of security, interaction within international organizations. This allows analysts to note the existence of de facto alliance between the two countries. Besides, these strategies also include Japanese involvement. In foreign policy, Japan and Australia had two similar tendencies of a controversial nature. On the one hand, there's the desire for independence and independent role in the world, on the other hand, a strong interest in maintaining military alliance with the U.S. and considering the USA the major guarantor of their security and stability in the region as a whole (Lyons, 2005).
Tripartite cooperation between the U.S., Japan and Australia in matters of military, political, economic and social security is developing quite successfully, although there often appear contradictory moments. Moreover, it is the U.S., Japan and Australia that are often interested in maintaining the system of international relations in the way they existed during the confrontation, just with the slight shift of emphasis. Australia and Japan are factually important mainstays of the U.S. security strategy in Asia-Pacific Region and will be them in the nearest future (Searle, 2004).
In one of his speeches, Kevin Rudd expressed the hope that the U.S. would be able to maintain this “strategic dominance” and would continue to be the basis for the alliance to ensure the security of Australia. During the current visit, K. Rudd also stressed the importance of the Australia-US alliance and close partnerships, calling them “first-class” agreements.
An important reason for the close contacts between the U.S. and Australia is that after 9\11 attacks, the Australian Government was actively expressing its support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, unleashed by the Bush administration to “fight against terrorism”. The meeting of Barack Obama and Kevin Rudd gives the outside world an important signal that the parties are united in one's zeal to reach stability in Afghanistan, marking that Afghanistan shouldn't be transformed into a haven of terrorists.
Another important reason for the close ties between Washington and Canberra was the policy of rapprochement conducted by the American side during a long period of time. The United States, which is actively engaged in the “international war on terror” being at the same time unable to carry it out, now has an even stronger need for financial assistance from Australia, as well as for its support of human resource. Despite the fact that Australia has not yet promised to send reinforcements to Afghanistan, the presence of more than one thousand Australian troops in Southern Afghanistan where the Taliban operate, is already an effective support of the US steps taken to strengthen its strategy in Afghanistan.
Obama openly admits that the United States is in difficult economic situation, and it was not easy to make the decision on increasing its contingent in Afghanistan. In a veiled form, he expressed the hope of the American side for the fact that Australia would extend the mission of its troops in Afghanistan or send reinforcements. However, analysts say that the Government of Kevin Rudd is unlikely to act in accordance with the aspirations of the Obama administration, since two-thirds of Australians oppose the increase of Australian troops in Afghanistan.
Proceeding from its own strategic interests, namely national security and promotion of economic and technological development, Australia has consistently acted as a steadfast ally of the USA and the UK. Just like his predecessors, Kevin Rudd supports the policy of maintaining strategic relations with these countries. Meanwhile, being one of the most important countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia seeks for more independent foreign policy. One of the features of its development is the application of efforts in developing cooperation with Asian countries, especially China and India. Thus, today Australia is hoping to bring its bilateral cooperation with the main political players to a new stage.
Clapton, W. (2009). Managing risk within international society: hierarchical governance in the Asia-Pacific. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 63(3), 416-429.
Devetak, R. (2009). An Australian Outlook on International Affairs? The Evolution of International Relations Theory in Australia. Australian Journal of Politics & History, 55(3), 335-359.
Kelton, M. (2006). Perspectives on Australian foreign policy. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 60(2), 229-246.
Lee, D. (1995). Search for security. The political economy of Australia's postwar foreign and defence policy. Canberra.
Lyons, M. (2005). Australia's History: Themes and Debates. University of New South Wales Press.
Searle, A., & Kamae, I. (2004). Anchoring trilateralism: can Australia-Japan-US security relations work? Australian Journal of International Affairs, 58(4), 464-478.
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