Australia’s international relations are driven by its core national interests - the security of the Australian nation and the economic wellbeing of the Australian people.
Important elements of Australia’s international relations are the priority accorded to the Asia Pacific, and especially to the countries of East Asia, the strengthening of bilateral relationships with the United States, Japan, Indonesia and China, the commitment to further international trade liberalisation, and strong support for the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Australia has global interests which require broad international engagement, and the priority Australia attaches to its relationships with the countries of the Asia Pacific does not diminish the important interests Australia pursues in the Americas, Europe and elsewhere.
In addition to maintaining and developing strong bilateral relationships, Australia’s international interests are advanced through participation in regional and global institutions and forums. For example, the negotiation of multilateral trade agreements enhances access to foreign markets for Australian exports. Australia also has a strong national interest in helping to guard against the spread of weapons of mass destruction, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. It has therefore been active globally and regionally in support of the development of, and adherence to, international non-proliferation and disarmament regimes.
Our international relations are also shaped by economic globalisation and the revolution in international communications. Globalisation offers opportunities for internationally competitive economies, but also brings challenges for political and economic management. It has profound implications for trade and economic policy. It blurs the division between foreign and domestic policy, increases competitive pressures in markets, and makes globally based trade rules and disciplines even more important.
Relations with Asia have a profound influence on Australian foreign and trade policy. Australia’s engagement with the countries of Asia is extensive and has been built over many decades. We engage with our region for a number of reasons. What happens in our own region will affect us more deeply and more quickly than events that occur in most other areas of the world. Australia has substantial trade and economic interests at stake in the region. Even with the effects of the East Asian economic crisis, East Asia takes more than 50% of all our exports, and even more is transported through the region to markets elsewhere in the world. Australia continues to seek closer engagement with Asia because of the profound benefits that flow from our relations with countries of the region and the realisation of our mutual interests.