This chapter was contributed by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, AusAID, and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (September 2005).
Australia’s foreign and trade policies aim to advance the national interest by protecting and promoting the security and prosperity of Australians.
Australia engages with other countries bilaterally, regionally and globally. It has close bilateral relationships with the countries in the region and beyond, characterised by strong political, strategic, economic and people-to-people ties. Australia is an active member of regional organisations - such as the Pacific Islands Forum, ASEAN Regional Forum and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum - and multilateral organisations including the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, through which it pursues Australia’s national interests and, with other members, promotes good governance, security and stability, human rights, sustainable development and economic prosperity, among other important goals.
The international environment is increasingly diverse and unpredictable. The terrorist threat continues to alter international security and to pose dangers to Australian travellers, expatriates and missions overseas. Counter-terrorism is a major focus of Australia’s foreign policy. The Australian Government is active in developing bilateral and regional partnerships and encouraging multilateral action, including through the United Nations, to strengthen practical efforts against terrorism.
Globalisation has made the world more interdependent and had a profound economic effect, 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. Faster and freer movement of people, goods and information have created opportunities but also challenges, including increased vulnerability to transnational crime.
The Indian Ocean tsunami that struck on 26 December 2004 had a major impact on Australians and others in neighbouring countries. The Australian Government responded with a large-scale consular and humanitarian response to assist Australian victims and help rehabilitate affected countries. Dealing with the impact of the tsunami will be an important element of Australia’s relations with regional partners, in particular Indonesia, for many years.
The General Assembly of the United Nations has declared 2006 as the International Year of Deserts and Desertification. The article at the conclusion of this chapter Assisting countries to combat desertification - Australia's role includes a outline of two Australian Government-funded research projects that are tackling land and water resource degradation in the Yellow River Basin in north-west China.