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Foreign Relations - United States

The World War II experience, similarities in culture and historical background, and shared democratic values have made U.S. relations with Australia exceptionally strong and close. Ties linking the two nations cover the entire spectrum of international relations--from commercial, cultural, and environmental contacts to political and defense cooperation. Two-way trade was A$50.6 billion (U.S. $50.6 billion) in 2010-2011. Around 473,000 Americans visited Australia in the 12 months to April 2011.

Traditional friendship is reinforced by the wide range of common interests and similar views on most major international questions. For example, both attach high priority to controlling and eventually eliminating chemical weapons, other weapons of mass destruction, and anti-personnel landmines; and both work closely on global environmental issues such as slowing climate change and preserving coral reefs. The Australian Government and the Opposition share the view that Australia's security depends on firm ties with the United States, and the ANZUS Treaty enjoys broad bipartisan support. Presidential visits to Australia (in 1991, 1996, 2003, 2007, and 2011), a Vice Presidential visit in February 2007, and Australian Prime Ministerial visits to the United States (in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2011) have underscored the strength and closeness of the alliance.

The bilateral Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) entered into force on January 1, 2005. This comprehensive agreement substantially liberalized an already vibrant trade and investment relationship and was only the second FTA between the U.S. and a developed nation. The AUSFTA created a range of ongoing working groups and committees to explore further trade reform in the bilateral context. Both countries share a commitment to liberalizing global trade. They work together very closely in the World Trade Organization (WTO), and both are active members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

A number of U.S. institutions conduct scientific activities in Australia because of its geographical position, large land mass, advanced technology, and, above all, the ready cooperation of its government and scientists. In 2005, a bilateral science and technology agreement was renewed. Under another agreement dating back to 1960 and since renewed, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) maintains in Australia one of its largest and most important programs outside the United States, including a number of tracking facilities vital to the U.S. space program. Indicative of the broad-ranging U.S.-Australian cooperation on other global issues, a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) was concluded in 1997, enhancing already close bilateral cooperation on legal and counter-narcotics issues.

In 2001, the U.S. and Australia signed a new tax treaty and a bilateral social security agreement. The U.S. Studies Center was launched in 2006 at the University of Sydney with Commonwealth funding of A$25 million (U.S. $25 million). In April 2010, Australia and the U.S. signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen emergency management cooperation including during bushfires, major storms, and other severe natural disasters.

Australia is a significant purchaser of U.S. military equipment, consistently ranked in the top 10 globally based on sales in dollar value. In August 2004, Australia selected the U.S. Navy Aegis Combat System for three new air warfare destroyers, which will start coming into service in 2014. In a joint venture with the U.S. Navy, Australia is upgrading its Submarine Combat System, and its associated support infrastructure, for its six Collins-class submarines.

The F/A-18 fighter is the principal combat aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force. In October 2002, Australia became a Level III partner in the U.S.-led Joint Strike Fighter program. Additionally, the Australian Government signed the Joint Strike Fighter Production, Sustainment and Follow-on Development memorandum of understanding in 2006. Australia is projected to buy 72, and possibly up to 100, Joint Strike Fighter aircraft with deliveries starting in 2014. Australia's first operational squadron is planned to be ready for operations in 2018. Australia is also a developmental partner for the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

In 2011, the Royal Australian Air Force completed acquisition of 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet fighters as an interim strike capability to bridge the capability gap to Joint Strike Fighter delivery. The Royal Australian Air Force took delivery of its fifth Boeing C-17 strategic airlift aircraft in 2011, with delivery of its sixth scheduled in 2012. In addition, Boeing has provided the RAAF with an Airborne Early Warning and Control system based on the Next-Generation 737-700 aircraft as the airborne platform.

Recent major U.S. sales to Australia include MH-60 "Romeo" helicopters, CH-47F Chinook helicopters, the M1A1 Abrams tank, M-777 howitzers (artillery), tactical unmanned aerial systems, and numerous types of missiles and other munitions. Future opportunities include light cargo aircraft replacement, submarine technologies, and unmanned surveillance capabilities.

"Barking mad" and “a revolting slug” were just some of the words Australian politicians used to describe Donald Trump in the lead-up to the US presidential election. But both sides of Australian politics promised to work with President-elect Trump, and they have chosen to be pragmatic. At stake is Australia’s most important military alliance - that with the United States, which dates back to the early 1950s. It provides a security blanket that lies at the core of the Australian psyche. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who strongly criticized Trump’s crass comments about women during the campaign, congratulated the American president-elect, reaffirming the importance of a strong bilateral relationship. "Americans understand they have no stronger ally and no better friend than Australia. And the enduring national interests of our two countries are such that our relationship will continue to be strong. We'll continue to work together as we have done with many presidents in years past to take on the challenges of our time," Turnbull said.

Media commentary in Australia was mixed. Some opinion columns have warned that a Trump presidency will fuel a trade war with China, Australia’s most important commercial partner, as well as bigotry and xenophobia. However, a Sydney tabloid told its readers that “the silent majority has roared. The underdog has triumphed. The outsiders have given a black eye to the Establishment.”

Trump had a contentious call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on 28 January 2017 over a deal made under the Obama administration to resettle 1,250 refugees who were intercepted while trying to reach Australia. Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.” Trump boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior US officials briefed on the exchange. "This is the worst deal ever," Trump reportedly told Turnbull. Trump accused Prime Minister Turnbull of trying to send America the "next Boston bombers". Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly slammed the phone down and ended the conversation. In a tweet on 02 February 2017, Trump questioned why the Obama administration agreed to take the refugees. “Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”

The official readout of the conversation said that the two had “emphasized the enduring strength and closeness of the U.S.-Australia relationship that is critical for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.” According to the Australian Department of Immigration, there are 383 detainees on Nauru and 871 on Manus, a total of 1,254 mostly from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia.

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