|Page tools: Print Page|
AUSTRALIA'S BILATERAL RELATIONSHIPS
Australia and the USA also cooperate closely on climate change issues and in January 2006 were partner countries in the first ministerial meeting of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.
The Australia-US Free Trade Agreement entered into force on 1 January 2005, providing significant new opportunities for Australian exporters. The ministerial-level Joint Committee, set up under the Agreement to review its operations, has met in Washington (2006) and Sydney (2007).
The USA is one of Australia’s top merchandise trading partners, its largest services trading partner and the leading source of foreign investment. In 2006 Australia exported goods and services to the USA worth $15.6 billion (b) and imported goods and services from the USA worth $31.8b. Major Australian merchandise exports to the USA include professional services, beef, alcoholic beverages, non-bovine meat and medical instruments.
People-to-people ties, including educational and cultural links, are extensive. In 2006, over 12,000 student enrolments were received from the USA. This was around 3% of the total and the ninth-largest source. Over the same period 456,100 tourists from the USA visited Australia. This was an increase of 2% relative to 2005 and the fourth-largest source of tourists. A Work and Holiday Memorandum of Understanding between Australia and the USA, which will allow tertiary students to undertake a gap year in the USA, was signed on 4 September 2007.
Prime Minister Howard's visit to the USA in May 2006 included the announcement of a $25 million (m) Government contribution towards the establishment of a United States Study Centre in Australia which is due to open at the University of Sydney in 2008. DFAT supported participation by Australian ministers in the privately organised Australian-American Leadership Dialogues held in August 2005 in Sydney, June 2006 in Washington, and August 2007 in Melbourne.
The last year has seen significant advances in Australia’s close relations with Japan, which continues to draw strength from long-established common interests and values. Both countries are industrialised democracies, committed to prosperity and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and key allies of the USA. Australia and Japan are working together to identify new areas to broaden the existing partnership on security matters, including counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation, and in areas such as humanitarian relief and peacekeeping.
Cooperation on defence and security issues continued to develop strongly. In March 2007, Prime Ministers Howard and Abe signed the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation - the most ambitious security arrangement that Japan has entered into with any country other than the USA. The Declaration contains a number of ground-breaking commitments for Japan, including regular foreign and defence ministers talks, joint exercises and training, and an Action Plan to develop cooperation in areas covered by the Joint Declaration. The inaugural joint foreign and defence ministers meeting was held in June 2007.
2007 marked the 50th anniversary of the landmark 1957 Commerce Agreement between Australia and Japan. Since signing the Commerce Agreement, both countries have benefited from a dynamic and interdependent economic partnership. Japan has been Australia’s largest export market for 40 years. Merchandise exports to Japan totalled $32.5b in 2006, more than the combined value of goods exports to China and the USA. In 2006, Japan was Australia’s top export market for coal, copper ores, beef, aluminium, liquefied natural gas (LNG), dairy products and woodchips. Japan was also Australia’s third largest source of foreign investment.
Negotiations on a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) commenced in April 2007, and have continued to make good progress. Both sides have reaffirmed their commitment to a comprehensive, World Trade Organization (WTO)-consistent FTA.
The cultural relationship between the two nations continues to grow. There are currently 16 Australia-Japan and Japan-Australia societies providing grass-roots community support to the relationship, as well as 99 sister city alliances.
In December 2007, Australia and China will celebrate the 35th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations. Australia’s constructive and friendly relationship with China is built on the basis of mutual respect and recognition of shared interests and differences. China's importance to Australia has grown with China's increasing economic, political and strategic weight in the Asia-Pacific region and the global economy.
Australia engages with China on various issues of mutual interest, including regional architecture, cross-Strait relations, security on the Korean Peninsula, climate change and development assistance in the South Pacific. Australia and China have an annual bilateral human rights dialogue.
In 2006, China cemented its place as Australia's second largest trading partner and one of its fastest growing export markets - bilateral trade in goods and services reached a record $50b. Australia exported goods and services worth $24b to China. Major Australian merchandise exports to China included iron ore, alumina, wool and copper ores.
Frequent high-level visits between Australia and China have strengthened the relationship. In June 2006, Prime Minister Howard witnessed the arrival of the first commercial shipment of Australian LNG at the Guangdong receiving terminal.
In April 2007, Foreign Minister Downer met senior Chinese Government officials, including Vice President Zeng Qinghong, Secretary General of the State Council, Hua Jianmin, and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, to discuss a range of political and regional strategic issues.
Also in April 2007, Trade Minister Truss co-chaired the second meeting of the High-level Economic Cooperation Dialogue in Beijing with Chairman Ma Kai of the National Development and Reform Commission and discussed progress on FTA negotiations with Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai.
Australia hosted Commerce Minister Bo Xilai in October 2006 to co-chair the 11th Australia-China Joint Ministerial Economic Commission meeting to advance the bilateral commercial and investment relationship, and Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan visited Australia in March 2007 to discuss bilateral environmental and resources cooperation.
The Australia-China Council celebrates its 13th anniversary in 2008. Established by the Australian Government, the Council continues to play a significant role in enhancing Australia’s cultural relations and people-to-people ties with China.
Within the framework of its one-China policy, Australia promotes important economic, trade, cultural and people-to-people links with Taiwan.
A successful visit to Australia in December 2006 by the President of the Republic of Korea (ROK), Roh Moo-hyun, emphasised the strength of the bilateral relationship, which is underpinned by an expanding trade and investment partnership. Both countries have similar strategic outlooks - based on a shared commitment to democratic values and market economies - and include strong alliance relationships with the USA and cooperation in support of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
The Australian and Korean economies are highly complementary, and Australia’s commodity exports have contributed significantly to the ROK’s remarkable economic progress over the past 50 years. The ROK is Australia’s third largest merchandise export market. There are further opportunities for Australia to supply goods and services to the ROK, including energy and resources products, and the two countries have agreed on a private sector study to investigate the benefits of a FTA. In 2006, Australian exports of goods and services to the ROK amounted to $13.9b, and the ROK was Australia’s sixth largest overall trading partner, with total two-way trade in the same period reaching $21.3b. Major Australian merchandise exports to the ROK include coal, crude petroleum, iron ore and beef. In 2006, over 260,800 Koreans visited Australia and more than 31,000 Korean enrolments were received for study at Australian institutions. The Australia-Korea Foundation, established in 1992, promotes awareness of the importance of the bilateral relationship and fosters enhanced cultural and people-to-people links.
Australia is an active participant in efforts to resolve tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Development of Australia’s relations with the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), which resumed in 2000, has again been suspended pending progress by the DPRK on verifiably dismantling its nuclear weapons programs. Australia has continually urged the DPRK to engage constructively with the Six-Party Talks process which aims to resolve the nuclear issue. Australia works closely with regional partners to ensure the DPRK understands the extent of international concern over the nuclear issue. Australia uses the DPRK embassy in Canberra to register these messages directly, and to emphasise the benefits available to the DPRK should it choose to become a responsible member of the international community.
The Australian Government liaised closely with key players in the region and other allies to ensure a strong and rapid international response to the DPRK’s missile tests on 5 July and nuclear test on 9 October 2006. In addition to fully implementing our obligations under United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1718 (adopted in response to the October 2006 nuclear test), Australia worked with other members of the international community to ensure the Resolution’s comprehensive implementation. In response to the 2006 missile and nuclear tests, Australia also put in place bilateral measures against the DPRK, in the form of restrictions on the grant of visas to DPRK nationals, a ban on DPRK ships entering Australian ports and financial sanctions against 12 named entities and one individual associated with the DPRK’s WMD and missile programs.
Following the adoption of the 13 February 2007 Six-Party Talks statement on Initial Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement, a high-level Australian Government delegation visited the DPRK in March 2007 to urge the DPRK to fulfil its commitments and to outline the advantages of doing so. After the International Atomic Energy Agency-supervised closure of the DPRK’s Yongbyon nuclear facilities in July 2007, pursuant to the 13 February statement, Australia’s Beijing-based Ambassador to the DPRK travelled to Pyongyang to present his credentials. He urged continuing DPRK progress towards denuclearisation and outlined possible Australian support for such progress.
Australia and Indonesia are close neighbours enjoying a wide-ranging relationship encompassing political, security, commercial, cultural and people-to-people links. The relationship is underpinned by frequent two-way high-level visits. Australia and Indonesia are cooperating closely on counter-terrorism, people smuggling, transnational crime, illegal fishing and climate change.
On 13 November 2006, Australia and Indonesia signed the Agreement on the Framework for Security Cooperation (the Lombok Treaty). The Agreement will strengthen cooperation in defence, law enforcement, counter-terrorism, intelligence, maritime security, aviation safety, counter-proliferation of WMD and emergency management and response.
Australia will provide an estimated $459 million (m) in official development assistance in 2007-08. Under the Australia-Indonesia Partnership, which includes $1b committed by Australia following the Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December 2004, the Australian Government is providing funds to help rebuild communities in Aceh and in other disaster-affected areas, and to promote economic growth across Indonesia. Australia has committed $40m to Indonesia which is a key partner in the Australian Government's Global Initiative on Forests and Climate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and promote sustainable forest management. This commitment includes $30m for the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership, which will rehabilitate and reforest drained peatlands and protect forested peatlands.
The Australia-Indonesia Ministerial Forum and the Australia-Indonesia Trade Ministers’ Meeting are key platforms for enhancing cooperation between the two countries. The Ministerial Forum last met in Bali on 29 June 2006 and the Trade Ministers’ Meeting in Jakarta on 25 June 2007. In September 2005, a bilateral Trade and Investment Framework to enhance commercial ties was signed. Two-way trade in goods and services between Australia and Indonesia was valued at $10.4b in 2006, making Indonesia Australia’s 13th largest trading partner. Australia’s major merchandise exports to Indonesia include wheat, crude petroleum, aluminium, live animals and cotton. On 27 July 2007, Prime Minister Howard and Indonesia’s President announced a joint feasibility study on the merits of a bilateral FTA.
The relationship is characterised by strong people-to-people links. There were over 15,000 Indonesian enrolments in Australia in 2006. Australia promotes bilateral understanding and exchanges through the Australia-Indonesia Institute, established by the Australian Government in 1989.
Australia attaches priority to its relationship with ASEAN, which is a key regional institution comprising Brunei Darussalam, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Australia was the first country to become a dialogue partner of ASEAN, in 1974, and participates in a number of important ASEAN-related meetings, notably the East Asia Summit (EAS), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference.
In 2004, leaders announced the start of negotiations for an ASEAN-Australia New Zealand FTA. These negotiations are ongoing. Australia and ASEAN signed a Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism in 2004 and finalised a work programme to implement the Joint Declaration in June 2007. On 10 December 2005, Foreign Minister Downer signed the instrument of accession to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.
In August 2007, Australia and ASEAN signed a Joint Declaration on an ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Partnership which provides a framework for the future direction of Australia’s engagement with ASEAN.
East Asia Summit (EAS)
Australia's close and long-standing engagement in the east-Asian region was bolstered further when Australia became a founding member of the EAS, with Prime Minister Howard attending the inaugural Leaders' meeting in Kuala Lumpur on 14 December 2005. The EAS brings together leaders from the ten ASEAN countries as well as Australia, China, Japan, India, New Zealand and the ROK for strategic dialogue and action on key challenges facing the region. Leaders meet annually as part of the ASEAN Summits, with a number of ministerial and senior officials' meetings held during the year to progress initiatives agreed by Leaders.
The 16 EAS countries represent collectively 49% of the world's population and account for 22% of global GDP, and the region is expected to see sustained economic growth. With the 15 other EAS member countries accounting for 58% of Australia's goods and services export markets, the grouping is of key economic and strategic importance.
Australia has substantial relationships with many of the individual members of ASEAN. Australia has signed FTAs with Singapore and Thailand and negotiations are ongoing on a possible Malaysia-Australia FTA.
Singapore is Australia's largest trade and investment partner in ASEAN. In 2006, goods and services exports to Singapore were valued at $4.6b and $2.8b respectively, while goods and services imports from Singapore were valued at $10.8b and $4.0b. Australia's largest export to Singapore in 2006 was crude petroleum. Productive high level exchanges remain important in the bilateral relationship, exemplified by the visit to Australia in March-April 2007 by Singapore's Minister Mentor and first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew and the visit in June 2006 by Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Bilateral cooperation with Thailand was inevitably affected by the coup in September 2006. Some restrictions were applied to contacts with the Thai military regime and armed forces in particular. The government also made clear Australia's desire for an early return to democracy. Trade and commercial relations with Thailand remained buoyant. In 2006, Australia exported goods and services to Thailand valued at $4.3b and $0.7b respectively and imported goods and services valued at $6.3b and $1.2b.
Australia's relationship with Malaysia is diverse and based on active and cooperative relations across a broad range of sectors. The relationship is underpinned by strong people-to-people links through organisations such as the Australia-Malaysia Institute, and draws on many longstanding associations dating back many decades. In November 2006, Prime Minister Howard visited Malaysia, which followed the official visit to Australia by Malaysia's Prime Minister Dato' Seri Abdullah Badawi in 2005. In 2006, Australia exported goods and services to Malaysia valued at $2.8b and $1.2b respectively, and imported goods and services valued at $6.7b and $0.9b.
Bilateral contacts with the Philippines are growing, particularly within the defence security, development cooperation and commercial fields. President Arroyo made an official visit to Australia from 30-31 May 2007. During her visit, a bilateral Status of Visiting Forces Agreement was signed as well as the Philippines-Australia Development Assistance Strategy 2007-11. Australian mining companies are also showing interest in the Philippines minerals and energy sector.
Australia's relations with Burma have, for many years, been overshadowed and held back by Burma's political circumstances. Australia actively and regularly registers its concerns about the political, economic and humanitarian situation in Burma. Australia takes all appropriate opportunities to urge the Burmese regime to work towards democratic reform and genuine national reconciliation and address human rights concerns, both in direct representations to the Burmese regime, and in regional and international fora, including UN bodies. The Government also works bilaterally with third countries to urge them to press for positive change in Burma. These efforts were intensified in the wake of the mass protests which began in late-August 2007 and were met with violent repression by the Burmese authorities.
Australia worked closely with the East Timorese people and the UN in support of East Timor’s transition to independence in 2002. In response to the breakdown in law and order in East Timor in April 2006, and at the invitation of the East Timorese leadership, Australia deployed troops and police as part of international efforts to help stabilise the security situation. Australia now leads the International Security Force which supports UN police in maintaining security. Australia is also at the forefront of international efforts to provide development cooperation, including humanitarian assistance, to East Timor. In February 2007, the landmark Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea and International Unitisation Agreement for Greater Sunrise entered into force. The treaties provide the necessary regulatory and legal bases for the development of the Greater Sunrise gas reservoirs to proceed.
India is a rising power and has become an increasingly important economic, political and defence cooperation partner for Australia. The bilateral relationship has a strong institutional framework that includes a Foreign Ministers Framework Dialogue, a Joint Ministerial Commission involving trade ministers, senior officials’ talks and a strategic dialogue. During Prime Minister Howard’s visit to India in March 2006, the two sides signed a Trade and Economic Framework to provide a more strategic focus to bilateral trade and investment. In 2007, Australia’s Attorney-General and Defence and Trade Ministers visited India, the latter with a large business delegation.
India now ranks seventh as a market for Australian exports and tenth as a trading partner overall. In 2006, Australian exports of goods to India were valued at $8.8b and services exports were valued at $1.5b. Australia’s major merchandise exports to India are non-monetary gold, coal, copper ores, wheat and wool. The Australian Government established the Australia-India Council in 1992 to broaden and deepen bilateral contacts and understanding.
Australia maintains productive political and economic relationships with the other countries of South Asia. Australia remains an important counter-terrorism partner and aid donor to Pakistan.
Australia also continues to contribute to international stabilisation and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. Australia opened its first resident embassy in Kabul in September 2006, and has intensified its engagement with Afghanistan through increased military deployments. These include an Australian Defence Force (ADF) Reconstruction Task Force (RTF) and a Special Operations Task Group in Oruzgan Province. The RTF will undertake infrastructure development activities and training for the local population. Australia announced a significant boost to aid to Afghanistan and adjoining areas of Pakistan in August 2007 by providing an additional $115m over two years.
The Australia-Canada relationship is mature, highly productive and broadly based, and has its foundations in our historical and cultural links. Trade relations stretch more than 100 years and formal diplomatic links are over 60 years old. A bilateral visit to Australia by Canadian Prime Minister Harper in September 2007 - during which he addressed a joint sitting of Parliament - reaffirmed the two countries’ close friendship and common interests. In addition to an active trade and investment relationship, Australia and Canada cooperate closely in the UN, as well as on international security (including in Afghanistan, where both countries have troops deployed), counter-terrorism, and environmental issues. In 2006, Australia exported goods and services to Canada valued at $2.4b, while Australia imported goods and services from Canada valued at $2.8b.
Australia and New Zealand share a close and diverse relationship, underpinned by extensive and high-level government-to-government interaction and people-to-people linkages. Strategic and defence relations are set out in the Canberra Pact (1944), the ANZUS Treaty (1951) and the Australia-New Zealand Closer Defence Relations Agreement (1991). The Australia-New Zealand Leadership Forum, a private-sector driven process established in 2004, also provides a strategic focus for ministers, business representatives, academics and other senior community leaders from both countries to discuss ways to broaden and deepen the bilateral relationship. The Forum most recently met in April 2007 in Sydney and involved around 90 participants from both countries.
The trade and investment relationship is underpinned by the 1983 Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (ANZCERTA), which creates a free trade area between the two countries. An annual ministerial meeting addresses ways of further facilitating the free flow of trade between the two countries. Exports of Australian goods and services to New Zealand were valued at $8.9b and $3.1b respectively in 2006. Australia imported goods and services from New Zealand valued at $5.5b and $2.2b over the same period. Australia’s major merchandise exports to New Zealand are refined and crude petroleum, medicaments, motor vehicles, and computers. Australia is New Zealand’s largest trading partner.
People-to-people contact between the two countries is extensive. The trans-Tasman Travel Arrangements of 1973 allow Australians and New Zealanders to visit, live and work in each other’s countries without restriction.
Australia has close ties with many countries in Europe. Australia and the United Kingdom (UK) share a particularly close and vibrant relationship, based on common strategic interests and strong trade and investment links. The UK is both Australia's second-largest foreign investor and the second-largest destination for Australian foreign investment. The strength of this relationship is underscored by regular high-level contact. Australia and the UK share common priorities in addressing contemporary global security challenges. The inaugural meeting of the Australia-UK Ministerial Dialogue was held in London in December 2006, involving the Foreign Minister, the Defence Minister and their British counterparts.
Bilateral relations with other European countries were enhanced by high-level visits from Australia over the past 12 months, including the Governor-General’s visit to the Netherlands in September 2006; the Foreign Minister’s visits to Germany and Turkey in February 2007 and to Finland, Belgium and Italy in September 2006; and the Trade Minister’s visit to France in May 2007. During the Foreign Minister’s visit to Turkey, Australia and Turkey signed a Memorandum of Understanding on counter-terrorism cooperation and organised crime and agreed to new veterinary health measures. High-level visitors to Australia in the past year included the Greek Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in May 2007; the Finnish President in February 2007; and the Netherlands’ Crown Prince and Princess in October 2006, to mark the 400th anniversary of Dutch-Australian contact. Negotiations proceeded on a number of bilateral agreements with Russia in advance of President Vladimir Putin’s September 2007 visit.
The European Union (EU) is home to almost half a billion people - more than the USA and Russia combined - and represents the world’s largest economy, the world’s largest aid donor and the world’s biggest trader, generating a quarter of global wealth. It is also Australia’s largest trading partner - with total two-way merchandise trade worth $56.7b in 2006 - and its largest source of foreign investment. Relations are built on shared values and a like-minded approach to a broad range of international issues. Moreover, with nearly 90% of Australia’s population claiming European ancestry, and half a million Australians living and working in Europe, the bilateral relationship is also based on strong historical and cultural ties.
Australia regularly holds broad-ranging policy dialogues at ministerial level with both the EU Presidency, which rotates every six months, and the European Commission. During the 21st Australia-European Commission Ministerial Consultations in Canberra in June 2007, the Australian Foreign Minister and his EU counterpart announced agreement to launch a new framework for the bilateral relationship. This new framework is expected to be completed in time for formal launch in mid-2008 and will focus on practical cooperation in the areas of: shared foreign policy and global security interests; the multilateral rules-based trading system and the bilateral trade and investment relationship; the Asia-Pacific region; energy issues, climate change and other environmental priorities; science and technology; and education and training.
Australia’s relationship with the diverse countries of Latin America includes strong bilateral economic interactions as well as cooperation on multilateral issues of mutual concern such as UN reform, multilateral trade negotiations, sustainable fishing and environmental protection. Latin America is an important destination for Australian investment, primarily in the mining and mining services sectors. Two-way trade is increasing, mainly due to a surge in exports of Australian coal, and exceeded $5b in 2006. In 2007, Australia and Chile commenced negotiations for a comprehensive bilateral FTA, while Australia and Mexico established a Joint Experts Group to investigate ways to strengthen the bilateral economic relationship. The Council on Australia Latin America Relations was given an ongoing status from 2007, and has contributed to advancing Australia’s economic, political and cultural relations with Latin America since its formation in 2001.
Australia values its close historical, political, economic and community links with the island countries and territories of the Pacific. Australia is the largest provider of development assistance to the Pacific and is playing an active role in the region in support of enhanced security, economic reform and good governance.
Australia is a founding member and major donor to a number of key regional organisations in the Pacific. The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) is the region’s principal political institution bringing together the independent and self-governing states of the Pacific in an annual Leaders’ meeting. The 37th Forum meeting was held in Nadi, Fiji, from 24-25 October 2006. Leaders endorsed the reappointment of Greg Urwin as Secretary-General for a further three years and established the $149.5m Australia-Pacific Technical College to provide Pacific islanders with Australian accreditation standards to access domestic and global skilled labour markets.
In August 2007, Forum Trade Ministers agreed for interested Pacific island countries to enter into consultations in 2008 on a road map for free trade negotiations between Forum island countries (FICs) and Australia and New Zealand. This follows a Trade Ministers’ decision in 2005 to move towards a comprehensive trade and economic agreement between FICs and Australia and New Zealand and under the provisions of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER).
The Australian and Papua New Guinea (PNG) Governments established the Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP) in 2004 under which Australian officials are deployed to assist PNG Government agencies strengthen governance and accountability. Australia worked with PNG to revise arrangements for the ECP following a ruling by the PNG Supreme Court in 2005 that aspects of ECP legislation relating to immunities for ECP deployees were unconstitutional. Around 45 Australian officials remain in PNG as advisers in the areas of economic and financial management, law and justice and border management and transport.
Australia leads the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) which was endorsed by the PIF and deployed to Solomon Islands in July 2003. The intervention followed the collapse of law and order and government institutions as a result of ethnic tensions in Solomon Islands which dated back to the late-1990s. PIF leaders endorsed RAMSI at the 37th Forum Meeting in October 2006, recognising its continuing strong support for the restoration of security and the rehabilitation of governance and the economy of Solomon Islands. Today, all 16 Forum members participate in RAMSI, which has a civilian, police and military component. Of a total 709 deployees in the Mission, 506 are Australian.
In June 2007, Australia and Nauru negotiated a fifth Memorandum of Understanding covering Australian development assistance to Nauru and co-operation in the management of asylum seekers.
Following riots in November 2006 which destroyed most of Tonga’s central business district, Australia is providing assistance for business recovery and, together with New Zealand, a package of assistance strengthening the Tongan Police Force. In July 2007, the Tongan Government established a tripartite committee to develop a road map for political reform in Tonga.
The Middle East is an area of global strategic and commercial importance. Australia has long supported a resolution of the Middle East conflict which recognises the right of Israel to exist within secure and recognised boundaries and establishes a viable Palestinian state.
Australia continues to support democracy and stability in Iraq. These efforts have seen progress with elections held in December 2005 and the subsequent establishment of a government of national unity. The ADF contribution to a stable and secure Iraq and in support of rehabilitation and reconstruction currently comprises up to 1,400 ADF personnel deployed to the Middle East Area of Operations. This includes a significant deployment to southern Iraq in a security overwatch role. Since 2003, Australia has committed over $173m to reconstruction, rehabilitation and humanitarian programs in Iraq.
Australia’s commercial interests in the Middle East are expanding, including in agriculture, manufacturing, metals and services. Australia is negotiating an FTA with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates). The GCC is a key merchandise export market, and Australia’s largest export market for passenger motor vehicles. The Council for Australian-Arab Relations was established by the Australian Government in 2002 to strengthen ties between Australia and Arab countries.
Iran’s nuclear program remains of deep concern in the Middle East region and globally. Australia is working closely with the international community in support of finding a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear issue.
Australia’s most significant relationship in Africa is with South Africa, which is its largest African trading partner. Australian mining companies are increasingly active throughout Africa and this sector is an important focus of bilateral engagement. In Zimbabwe, Australia applies a range of sanctions to encourage political and economic change, while continuing to provide emergency food and other humanitarian aid. Australia is working with the international community to address the humanitarian crises in Sudan, including Darfur. Since 2001 Australia has welcomed more than 21,000 refugees from Sudan, and since 2005 the ADF and Australian Federal Police have deployed personnel to the UN Mission in Sudan.