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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003   
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Contents >> International Relations >> Introduction

Australia’s international relations are driven by its core national interests - the security of the Australian nation and the prosperity and wellbeing of the Australian people.

Australia’s international relations give high priority to: the Asia-Pacific region; bilateral relationships with the United States of America, Japan, Indonesia, China and other key partners; international trade liberalisation; and support for the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Australia’s global interests require broad international engagement. The priority Australia attaches to its relationships with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region does not diminish the important interests Australia pursues in the Americas, Europe and elsewhere.

In addition to maintaining and developing strong bilateral relationships, Australia advances its international interests by participating 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 guarding against the spread of weapons of mass destruction, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, and works to achieve this objective through international regimes dealing with non-proliferation and arms control.

Our international relations are also shaped by economic globalisation. Globalisation provides opportunities for internationally competitive economies, but also brings challenges for political and economic management. Globalisation blurs the division between foreign and domestic policy, increases competitive pressures in markets, and makes globally based trade rules and disciplines even more important.

Australia’s engagement with Asia is extensive and has been built over many decades. Australia continues to seek closer engagement with Asia because of the profound mutual benefits that flow from our relations with countries of the region. What happens in our own region affects 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. Despite the global economic downturn, Australia’s trade with regional economies has remained stable or continued to grow. East Asia takes more than 50% of all our merchandise exports and others are is transported through the region to markets elsewhere in the world.

The Government is preparing to publish Australia’s second foreign and trade policy White Paper, Advancing the National Interest following significant changes to Australia’s international environment since the first White Paper of 1997. Advancing the National Interest will examine how Australia can best use its considerable credentials and attributes to advance its national interests in an increasingly globalised and fluid international environment.

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