This chapter was contributed by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, AusAID, and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (September 2004).
Australia’s foreign and trade policies are designed to advance the national interest by protecting and promoting the security and prosperity of the nation and its people. To this end, Australia pursues a broad and constructive agenda of international engagement.
In the current dynamic and uncertain global climate, the challenges facing Australia are complex and constantly evolving. The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States of America and 12 October 2002 in Bali fundamentally changed the international security environment in which Australia operates. Globalisation has had profound economic effects, including by promoting trade liberalisation and raising living standards in Australia. By encouraging competition, it has made the promotion of multilateral trade rules and disciplines even more important to fair trade and economic development. At the same time, faster and freer movements of people, goods and information have created new challenges, including by increasing countries’ vulnerability to transnational crime.
Australia utilises bilateral, regional and global strategies to meet these challenges and to promote its interests overseas. Australia has important links with all regions of the world, but seeks to engage most substantially with those countries with which it has significant economic or strategic interests.
The Australian Government is engaged actively in confronting terrorism and other global threats to its security, including through cooperation with other countries to prevent people smuggling and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Australia uses the multilateral system to counter such threats, and to promote the international observance of human rights and environmental issues. For example Australia continues to strive for an effective global response to climate change that does not unfairly compromise the competitiveness of Australian industry. Australia aligns itself with other countries to maximise the leverage it can exert in support of shared interests and agendas.
Given the size and internationalisation of the Australian economy, securing improved access to overseas markets for Australian goods and investment is very important. Australia is pursuing greater market access through the Doha Round of trade negotiations in the World Trade Organization. In concert with liberalisation efforts at the multilateral level, Australia has also developed bilateral free trade agreements with several trading partners. Australia is working towards further agreements, both bilaterally and regionally, in recognition of the practical benefits that more open markets bring to Australian business. At the same time, Australia promotes its strong, competitive economy in overseas markets to attract foreign direct investment.
In 2003 Australia’s second foreign and trade policy White Paper - Advancing the National Interest - was published. It is a comprehensive assessment of Australia’s place in the world, and articulates how Australia can best use its credentials to advance its national interests.