Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop MP
US – Australia Dialogue on Cooperation in the Indo- Pacific
Thursday, 26 January 2017
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
There are few nations that enjoy a closer relationship than that between Australia and the United States.
We are allies, partners, collaborators and most importantly friends - we like each other - a lot.
We share fundamental values that underpin a corresponding world view and a similar brand of pragmatic optimism.
There's a natural affinity.
We benefit from a high level of mutual trust, built up over decades of close cooperation.
Ours is a formal alliance, and the ANZUS Treaty of 1951 is the cornerstone of our longstanding relationship.
Following the inauguration of President Trump, Australia commits anew to our essential and enduring partnership.
The reference in his inauguration address to reinforcing "old alliances" is a sentiment we embrace and take seriously.
I am looking forward to meeting and working with my counterparts in the new Trump Administration.
While there are many issues for us to discuss, allow me to share with you what I see as some matters that Australia regards as critical and that we believe the new Administration should consider.
I will frame these issues around six themes:
First, Australia can be relied upon as a committed, long-term partner of the United States.
Like the United Stated, we are a free, open, liberal democracy.
Our courts are independent, our speech is free, our institutions are robust.
Our people are free to make their own decisions - about their faith, their politics, and free to make their own way in the world.
We encourage enterprise, entrepreneurialism and innovation.
Our way of life and our freedoms have attracted immigrants from across the globe.
One in 4 Australians was born overseas.
One in two has a parent born overseas.
In short, we're much like the United States - open and free societies in a world where such values are in short supply.
Secondly, Australia is economically strong and we are well positioned to capitalise on the future economic growth of the Asian region.
We are located at the southern arc of Asian economic dynamism.
While growth elsewhere in the world slows, Asia’s economy is growing at more than five per cent.
The Asian middle class is expected to increase fivefold, from 600 million to 3 billion, by 2035.
We are as much a contributor to Asia’s rise as we are a beneficiary of it.
Our minerals and resources fuelled and strengthened Japan’s post-war economic ascent, building good governance and long-term, reliable business partnerships.
We have been a major contributor to China’s more recent economic rise.
This economic strength allowed Australia to weather the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s.
We were able to assist our neighbours to regroup.
Almost uniquely among developed nations, we avoided recession in 2008.
In fact, we are now in our 26th year of uninterrupted annual economic growth - a feat unsurpassed by other comparable economies.
Open trade and investment disciplines us to seize opportunities allowing our national economy to evolve as the world economy evolves.
Our recent trade agreements with Japan, Korea and China give us an access into these major markets unmatched by any major advanced economy.
This has made Australia an excellent platform for US investors interested in the potential that Asia offers.
We strive to facilitate and free up the settings for international trade in our region.
Australia entered into free trade negotiations with the United States and ten other partners because we believed the Trans Pacific Partnership had the potential to deliver mutual benefits to every nation involved.
Australia remains supportive of the principles that underpinned the TPP and we are working with the other nations, apart from the United States, to realise these benefits by ratifying the agreement.
While the Trump Administration has withdrawn its support for the TPP we note President Trump's commitment to ensuring the United States continues to be a great trading nation of the world.
Australia would welcome US leadership in continuing to support the open global trading framework that has enabled so much development around the world.
Thirdly, Australia can be relied upon to play its part in the defence of our region.
It is a fact that Australia has fought beside the United States in every major war or conflict since 1914.
Today, an Australian Air Task Group is striking Daesh targets in Iraq and eastern Syria, as part of our major contribution to the US-led coalition against the terrorist group.
Our Special Forces personnel are advising and assisting Iraqi services alongside US forces.
We have missions training the Iraqi Army and the Afghanistan security forces.
Australian and US defence forces are deeply integrated.
Australian personnel are in line and command positions inside the US military.
Australia hosts annual six-month rotations of US Marines in Darwin.
In the future we will host short-term rotations of US aircraft on our soil.
We also work closely with the United States on counter terrorism in South East Asia, where we are building the capacity of local authorities to counter violent extremism and address the problem
of returning fighters.
Our intelligence agencies work at the highest level of cooperation and collaboration.
We work closely too with militaries in our region.
The practical collaboration between defence forces of the United States, Japan and Australia is a first-order strategic fact.
Australia has recently concluded an agreement with Singapore to treble the number of Singaporean military officers training in Australia.
We take particular responsibility for our neighbourhood, and Australia has acted to prevent state collapse and restore peace in the South Pacific, when requested by governments for support.
Over and above our military alliance, we see the United States as the most important power to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in our region.
The rise of China and other Asian nations, and their success in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, has been underpinned by the rules-based order, instigated and implemented by the US, and supported by its allies and other likeminded nations.
The key ingredient is the belief that one nation’s prosperity and security need not come at any other nation’s cost.
Australia and the United States share the conviction that human ingenuity holds out the promise of ongoing growth and prosperity, as we learn to better manage finite resources.
Again, Australia is a like-minded partner for the United States, engaging in our region and beyond, prepared to defend, and when necessary, fight for the values we share.
My fourth theme relates to Australia’s role in Asian diplomacy.
It is a fact that Australia’s largest overseas embassy is in Jakarta, capital of our near neighbour, Indonesia – the world’s third largest democracy, home to the world’s largest Muslim population.
Indonesia, a nation of 250 million, has demography on its side, and in the next decade or two will almost certainly be a top ten economy, and possibly top five.
Australia is preparing for a time, quickly approaching, when Indonesia’s economy grows larger than ours – potentially many times larger.
We have a fundamental and persistent interest in getting our Asian diplomacy right.
Australia borders the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean - our region is increasingly described as the Indo-Pacific.
We are actively pursuing a peaceful, stable, prosperous, open, and rules-based order across the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
Australia and the United States share an interest in this succeeding, as does China, Japan, India, Indonesia and many others.
We are making a strong long-term contribution to peace and prosperity as the first-choice provider of quality education to future leaders of region, notably educating students from India and China, and most other Indo-Pacific nations.
We also contribute, through our strong diplomatic presence, in South-East Asia in particular, to shared objectives across the full range of domains, from maritime to cyber.
The geographic centre of the Indo-Pacific is also its diplomatic centre: the countries of south-east Asia, and their Association of South-East Asian Nations known as ASEAN.
This brings me to my fifth point of discussion with the new administration.
There is an organisation of which neither Australia nor the United States is a member, yet we believe it is essential for the US to give it serious consideration and at the highest levels.
There is already a strong foundation for in 2008 President Bush appointed the first third-country Ambassador to ASEAN.
This was a smart decision and showed commendable foresight.
Since 1967 the countries of south-east Asia have been quietly going about the business of building peace and understanding in their Association of South East Asian Nations, with impressive and
For half a century, Australia has supported this regional diplomacy framework, as it turned a collection of fractious and sometimes warring states, into a cohesive economic community worth around 2.5 trillion US dollars, and growing at 4.5 per cent a year.
ASEAN was founded by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand with the core purpose of promoting peace, the rule of law and mutual respect.
They also sought to strengthen one another’s independence with respect to the great powers in their sphere.
While every international organisation has limits and shortcomings, the ten ASEAN nations, now including Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, have achieved their core purpose.
Australia benefits from this achievement, which, in making our neighbourhood more secure and prosperous, has supported our own peace and prosperity.
Today, the ASEAN member countries – like many others – are wrestling with the implications of China’s rise.
Their responses, as individual countries and collectively, have the potential to shape China’s decisions about its strategic goals and how to pursue them.
Australia welcomes China’s rise and consistently urge it to assume a leadership role that supports the rules-based order and international laws that have well served us all.
Australia is concerned about continued construction and militarisation of disputed features in the South China Sea, in particular the pace and scale of China’s activities.
We do not take sides on the territorial disputes and will continue to exercise our rights under international law to freedom of navigation and over flight.
However we encourage countries to resolve disputes peacefully in accordance with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
We welcome ASEAN and China’s commitment to fast track negotiations towards a binding and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
ASEAN has an influence throughout Asia that is not always well understood.
Today ASEAN is the foundation for the Indo-Pacific’s premier forum for diplomacy, the East Asia Summit.
The 18 EAS member countries speak for more than half of the world’s population and purchasing power.
Crucially the EAS is a forum where the US President and 17 other world leaders, including those of Japan, Russia, India and China, get together to do business.
In the EAS, leaders have a mandate to tackle economic and strategic issues, such as the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula.
When the twelfth EAS summit is held in the Philippines in 2017, it will be critical that President Trump attend as the leader of the pre-eminent strategic power in the region.
In giving our full support to ASEAN, Australia recognises that there is an ASEAN way of doing things, which can appear formal and can at times requires patience and understanding, while recognising that it has been very effective.
If we seek an Asia in which mutual respect and the rule of law prevail, as we do, then we should work in the fields that ASEAN and its partners have cultivated for sixty years.
With our diplomatic effort concentrated in Asia, Australia is heavily involved in maximising opportunity and minimising risk there.
That is why in 2018 Prime Minister Turnbull will welcome all 10 ASEAN leaders to Australia for the first time for an ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.
My sixth point is that we see the US as the indispensable power throughout the Indo-Pacific.
The US presence and its alliances have provided the stability that has underwritten the region’s growth for many decades.
In Australia’s experience and observation, Asian countries appreciate this point, and remain deeply receptive to an ongoing US presence – indeed the appetite for working with the US is strengthening
in many countries.
Most nations wish to see more US leadership, not less, and have no desire to see powers other than the US, calling the shots.
Australia believes that now is the time for the United States to go beyond current its engagement in Asia, to support Asia’s own peace, and to capitalise on the era of opportunity that long-term US investment has already created.
Australia will remain the staunchest of ally and friend, working closely with the United States to build on the peace and prosperity that many nations in our region have worked hard to achieve.
Continued US leadership will help guarantee that it will endure.