Foreign relations of Australia are influenced by its position as a leading trading nation and as a significant donor of humanitarian aid. Australia's foreign policy is guided by a commitment to multilateralism and regionalism, as well as to strong bilateral relations with its allies. Key concerns include free trade, terrorism, refugees, economic co-operation with Asia and stability in the Asia-Pacific. Australia is active in the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations. Given its history of starting and supporting important regional and global initiatives, it has been described as a regional middle power par excellence.
Australia's imports of major weapons increased 60 per cent between 2005–2009 and 2010–14, making it the sixth largest importer in the world according to SIPRI.
It maintains significant ties with ASEAN and has become steadfastly allied with New Zealand, through long-standing ties dating back to the 1800s. The country also has a longstanding alliance with the United States of America. Over recent decades Australia has sought to strengthen its relationship with Asian countries, with this becoming the focus of the country's network of diplomatic missions.
Before the Second World War, the British Government handled most of Australia's foreign policy.The critical decision during the war was to more closely align the military and the diplomacy with the United States. The first accredited diplomat sent to any foreign country was Richard Casey, appointed in January 1940. Since 1941, United States has been the most important ally and trading partner. Australian concluded an agreement in 1944 with New Zealand dealing with the security, welfare, and advancement of the people of the independent territories of the Pacific (the ANZAC pact). After the war, Australia played a role in the Far Eastern Commission in Japan and supported Indonesian independence during that country's revolt against the Dutch (1945–49).
Australia was one of the founders of both the United Nations and the South Pacific Commission (1947), and in 1950, it proposed the Colombo Plan to assist developing countries in Asia. In addition to contributing to UN forces in the Korean War – it was the first country to announce it would do so after the United States – Australia sent troops to assist in putting down the communist revolt in Malaya in 1948–60 and later to combat the Indonesian-supported invasion of Sarawak in 1963–65.
Australia sent troops to repel communism and assist South Vietnamese and American forces in the Vietnam War, in a move that stirred up antiwar activism at home.It joined coalition forces in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Australia has been active in the Australia – New Zealand – United Kingdom agreement and the Five Power Defence Arrangement—successive arrangements with Britain and New Zealand to ensure the security of Singapore and Malaysia.
In 1999 Australian peace keeping forces intervened in East Timor following its referendum to secede from Indonesia. In 2006 Australia sent a contingent of Australian troops to the state to assist in the 2006 East Timor crisis.
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One of the drafters of the UN Charter, Australia has given firm support to the United Nations and its specialised agencies. It was a member of the Security Council in 1986–87, a member of the Economic and Social Council in 1986–89, and a member of the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1994–96. Australia takes a prominent part in many other UN activities, including peacekeeping, disarmament negotiations, and narcotics control.
Australia also is active in meetings of the Commonwealth Heads of Government and the Pacific Islands Forum, and has been a leader in the Cairns Group – countries pressing for agricultural trade reform in the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations – and in the APEC forum. In September 1999, acting under a UN Security Council mandate, Australia led an international coalition to restore order in East Timor upon Indonesia's withdrawal from that territory.
Australia has devoted particular attention to relations between developed and developing nations, with emphasis on the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Brunei – and the island states of the South Pacific. Australia is an active participant in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which promotes regional co-operation on security issues. Australia was a participant at the inaugural ASEAN sponsored East Asia Summit in 2005. Australia's place at the summit was only secured after it agreed to reverse its policy and accede to ASEAN's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. Australia had been reluctant to sign the treaty out of concerns regarding how it would affect Australia's obligation under other treaty arrangements including ANZUS.
Papua New Guinea (PNG), a former Australian territory, is the largest recipient of Australian assistance. Starting in 1997–99 Australia contributed to the IMF program for Thailand and assisted Indonesia and PNG with regional environmental crisis and drought relief efforts.
Australia is party to the Australia, New Zealand, United States security treaty.
It has also been a party of the Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom force.
Overall Australia's largest trading partners are the United States, Korea, Japan, China, and the United Kingdom. Australia currently has bilateral Free Trade Agreements with New Zealand, the United States, Thailand and Singapore as of 2007. As well as this, Australia is in the process undertaking studies on Free Trade Agreements with ASEAN, China, Chile, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
To bolster its foreign policy, Australia maintains a very well-equipped military, According to SIPRI, Australia is the sixth largest importer of major weapons in the world. The US supplied 68 per cent of Australia's imports and Spain 19 per cent. Australia is modernising its armed forces but also acquiring weapons that significantly increase its long-range capabilities. Among the weapons imported in 2010–14 were 5 tanker aircraft and the first of 2 amphibious assault ships from Spain, along with 2 large transport aircraft and 4 airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft from the USA. Australia also received 26 combat aircraft from the US, with 82 more on order (see box 3), as well as 8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft from the US and 3 Hobart destroyers from Spain.
Australia has diplomatic representatives in over 90 locations. Australia has official relations with a number of countries. In a number of countries, Australia maintains an embassy, or in the case of Commonwealth countries, a high commission. Australia has consulates in many countries where there are no official government ties in existence, and these serve primarily to assist Australian travellers and business people visiting those countries. A number of Canadian missions provide consular assistance to Australians in countries in Africa where Australia does not maintain an office (and Australia reciprocates this arrangement for Canada in some other countries) through the Canada-Australia Consular Services Sharing Agreement.
Due to the One China Policy of the People's Republic of China, the Australian Office in Taiwan (formerly the Australian Commerce and Industry Office) unofficially represents Australia's interest in Taiwan, serving a function similar to other Australian Consulates.
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|See Algeria–Australia relations|
Australia and Cape Verde are represented to each other's country through their respective embassies in Lisbon, Portugal.
|1950||See Australia–Egypt relations |
|See Australia–Kenya relations |
|1976||See Australia–Morocco relations|
|See Australia–South Africa relations |
|See Australia–Zimbabwe relations |
Both countries have full embassy-level diplomatic relations. Australia currently manintains an embassy in Harare, and Zimbabwe maintains an embassy in Canberra.
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|See Argentina–Australia relations |
Australia and Argentina both have embassies in each other's capitals. They are both members of multi-national groups such as the G20 and Cairns Group and share common interests in many issues such as Antarctica and international peacekeeping. There is significant trade and investment between the two countries.
|See Australia–Barbados relations |
Bolivia and Australia work together on a wide variety of issues. There is investment in mining services and technology. Bolivia and Australia are part of the Cairns Group. Still trade is quite small. In 2002 The Hon Mark Vaile visited Santa Cruz for the Cairns Group meeting. Bolivia has an embassy in Canberra. Australia has a consulate in La Paz. Australia–Bolivia bilateral treaties include two extradition treaties.
|See Australia–Brazil relations|
|See Australia–Canada relations |
Canada's and Australia's militaries have fought alongside each other numerous times including the Second Boer War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and many United Nations Security Council-sanctioned missions. To maintain this military alliance, a Canadian Defence Advisor is stationed at the High Commission in Canberra to share intelligence. Australia and Canada both contributed the International force in East Timor and both worked closely together to fight terrorism in Afghanistan
|See Australia–Chile relations |
During the Australian gold rush of the 1850s, Chile became one of Australia's major food suppliers. After 1866, however, interaction and trade was minimal. Today both are members of the APEC the Cairns Group.
Australia and Chile signed the Australia-Chile Free Trade Agreement on 30 July 2008. The agreement came into effect in the first quarter of 2009.
Australia and Colombia are part of the Cairns Group. Colombia reopened its embassy in Canberra in 2008, Australia established an honorary consulate in Bogotá in 1989 and opened a resident embassy in Bogotá in 2017. Colombia and Australia have a growing trade relationship in mining and Agriculture. Both armies fought alongside each other in the Korean war. A total of 6 Australia–Colombia bilateral treaties, all extended to Australia by the British Empire, are in force with Colombia, covering trade, arbitration and extradition.
Official relations began in January 1989. Cuba opened an embassy in Australia on 24 October 2008. The relations between the countries were given a fresh new start in 2009, when the foreign minister at the time Stephen Smith visited Cuba. Foreign Minister of Cuba Bruno Rodriguez, visited Australia as a guest of government in 2010. There are only two Australia–Cuba bilateral treaties, extended to Australia by the British Empire covering extradition.
Ecuador has an embassy in Canberra. Australia's embassy in Santiago, Chile is accredited to Ecuador. Trade between the two countries is small but is increasing and there are future opportunities to strengthen trade and investment. A number of Australia–Ecuador bilateral treaties have been agreed between the two countries - such as extradition.
There are four Australia–Guatemala bilateral treaties extended to Australia by the British Empire. Guatemala has an embassy in Canberra, Australia. The Australian embassy in Mexico has consular responsibility for Guatemala. Trade between the two countries is A$32 Million.
Both countries members of the Commonwealth of nations and have sporting ties, particularly cricket. Trade is modest, with the balance heavily in Australia's favour.
|1966||See Australia–Mexico relations |
The two APEC members Australia and Mexico celebrated the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2006. Cooperation expansions recently has resulted in several commercial outcomes, including bilateral double taxation agreements signed in 2004, a memorandum of understanding on mining (MOU) in 2002, an MOU on Training and Education signed in 2003 an MOU on energy in 2005 and in August 2005 an MOU on investment protection and promotion agreement. Two-way trade is worth A$3 billion.
|See Australia–Paraguay relations |
Australia's relations with Paraguay are growing. In 2011, Paraguay opened an embassy in Canberra, Australia opened a consulate in Asunción. As agricultural producers and exporters, they work together to achieve fairer international trade in agricultural products through membership of the Cairns Group and co-operation in other multilateral fora. Australia is also increasing its engagement with Paraguay through development co-operation and people-to-people exchanges. An increasing number of Paraguayan students are pursuing their education at Australian institutions.
The two APEC members have worked together on a wide range of issues. The two countries have mutual interests. In 2006 the Australian Bureau of Meteorology signed a memorandum of understanding to help with the El Niño and La Niña weather patterns. Another memorandum of understanding was signed on co-operation with education. With goodwill the Peruvian congress signed a Peru Australia Friendship league in 2004. Trade ties are strong and are growing. Many big mining companies have offices in Peru. Peru has an embassy in Canberra. Australia has an embassy in Lima.
While Australia has emphasised its relationship with the United States since 1942, as Britain's influence in Asia declined. At the governmental level, United-States-Australia relations are formalised by the ANZUS treaty and the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement.
|See Australia–Uruguay relations|
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
The first Armenians migrated to Australia in the 1850s, during the gold rush. The majority came to Australia in the 1960s, starting with the Armenians of Egypt after Nasser came to power then, in the early 1970s, from Cyprus after the Turkish occupation of the island and from 1975 until 1992, a period of civil unrest in Lebanon. Person-to-person governmental links are increasing although they are still modest. In September 2003, The Hon Mr Philip Ruddock MP visited Armenia in his former capacity as Australian Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. In October 2005, the Armenian Foreign Minister, H.E. Mr Vardan Oskanyan, visited Australia. In November 2005, The Hon Mr Joe Hockey MP, Minister for Human Services, visited Armenia. The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia has not passed a motion recognising the mass murder of Armenians in 1915 as genocide, although the State of NSW has done so. The Australian Government elections of 2007 created an atmosphere in which the Opposition Labor party declared it will push for the Recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Australian Parliament if Labor wins the Elections.[ citation needed ]
Australia and Azerbaijan established diplomatic contacts in June 1992.
|1971||See Australia–Bangladesh relations |
|1984||See Australia–Brunei relations|
|1953||See Australia–Cambodia relations |
|See Australia–China relations|
|See Australia–East Timor relations |
Australia and East Timor are near neighbours with close political and trade ties. East Timor, one of the poorest countries in Asia, lies about 610 kilometres (380 mi) northwest of the Australian city of Darwin and Australia has played a prominent role in the young republic's history. Australia led the military force that helped stabilise the country after it chose independence from Indonesia in 1999 and has been a major source of aid since.
|1941||See Australia–India relations |
|See Australia–Indonesia relations |
Since Indonesian independence, the two countries have maintained mutual diplomatic relations, formalised co-operation (especially in the fields of fisheries conservation, law enforcement, and justice co-operation), a measure of security co-operation, broadening treaty relationships, co-membership of regional forums, and co-participation in several multilateral Treaties of significance.
|1948||See Australia–Israel relations |
|See Australia–Japan relations |
Australia-Japan relations are generally warm, substantial and driven by mutual interests, and have expanded beyond strong economic and commercial links to other spheres, including culture, tourism, defence and scientific co-operation.
Australia and Kazakhstan relations began in 1992. Australia opened an embassy in Almaty in 1995, which closed in 1999 due to resource constraints. Kazakhstan opened a Consulate-General in Sydney in 2015. There have been a number of high level visits between the two countries to sign co-operation agreements: Prime Minister Sergey Tereshchenko visited Australia in 1993; Governor-General Bill Hayden visited Kazakhstan in 1993; President Nursultan Nazarbayev visited Australia in 1996. The countries signed an agreement on economic and commercial cooperation, which came into force on 2 June 2004. Trade relations are modest.
Australia is represented in Kyrgyzstan by its embassy in Moscow.
|See Australia–Malaysia relations|
See Australia–Mongolia relations
Australia and Nepal have had diplomatic relations for over 50 years. They have a modest trade relationship but Australia provides more foreign aid than exports. Australia has a few points of interest such as in tourism, commerce and education.
Diplomatic relations are stressed due to North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Since October 2006 visas have not been issued for North Korean citizens and North Korean ships have been banned from Australia's ports. Economically, relations are more modest; North Korea ranks 125th in the order of Australia's trade partners, with two-way trade valued between A$6–11 million. On 22 April, North Korea threatened Australia with a nuclear strike.
|See Australia–Pakistan relations |
|See Australia–Philippines relations |
|See Australia–Singapore relations|
|October 1961||See Australia–South Korea relations |
|See Australia–Taiwan relations |
Australia is represented in Tajikistan by its embassy in Moscow.
|1952||See Australia–Thailand relations|
|1967||See Australia–Turkey relations |
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|9 January 1992|
Australia gave recognition of Croatia in January 1992
|See Australia–Denmark relations |
|22 September 1921||See Australia–Estonia relations |
Australia was among the first countries to re-recognise Estonia's independence on 27 August 1991. Both countries re-established diplomatic relations on 21 November 1991. Australia has an embassy in Tallinn. Estonia is represented in Australia through its embassy in Canberra and four honorary consulates (in Claremont, Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney). Australia is host to one of the largest communities of Estonians abroad, with 8,232 people identifying as Estonian in the 2006 Australian Census.
|See Australia–Finland relations |
Diplomatic relations were established on 31 May 1949. Australia is represented in Finland through its embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, and through an honorary consulate in Helsinki. Finland has an embassy in Canberra and a consulate in Sydney.
|See Australia–France relations |
France and Australia have a close relationship founded on historical contacts, shared values of democracy and human rights, substantial commercial links, and a keen interest in each other's culture.
|See Australia–Germany relations |
|See Australia–Greece relations |
|See Australia–Ireland relations |
|21 May 2008||See Australia–Kosovo relations |
|15 February 1994|
Australia is represented in Moldova by its embassy in Moscow.
|1 September 2006|
|See Australia–Netherlands relations |
|See Australia–Norway relations|
|February 1972||SeeAustralia–Poland relations |
|18 March 1968|
|1942||See Australia–Russia relations |
|1966||See Australia–Serbia relations |
|5 February 1992|
|26 October 1967||See Australia–Spain relations |
|See Australia–Sweden relations |
Australia has an embassy in Stockholm. Sweden has an embassy in Canberra as well as a consulate-general in Sydney. Sweden is also represented by consulates in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne and Perth.
The small but active Ukrainian community in Australia plays an important role in developing bilateral relations. In 2002 the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations helped establish Ukrainian-Australian House in Kyiv to promote commercial ties.
|See Australia–United Kingdom relations |
British-Australian relations are close, marked by shared history, culture, institutions and language, extensive people-to-people links, aligned security interests, and vibrant trade and investment co-operation.
Australia is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum and other regional organisations. It has High Commissions in Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. It has an embassy in the Federated States of Micronesia. Australia provides aid to many of its developing Pacific Islands neighbours, and to Papua New Guinea.
Australia's approach to the Pacific has included frequent references to what it has perceived as an "Arc of Instability" among its island neighbours. In August 2006 Australian Defence Minister Brendan Nelson stated to the Australian Parliament:
We cannot afford to have failing states in our region. The so-called 'arc of instability', which basically goes from East Timor through to the south-west Pacific states, means that not only does Australia have a responsibility in preventing and indeed assisting with humanitarian and disaster relief, but also that we cannot allow any of these countries to become havens for transnational crime, nor indeed havens for terrorism.
As from early 2008, the Australian government led by Kevin Rudd began what it called a "new approach" to relations between Australia and the Pacific, appointing a Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr. In February, Kerr and fellow Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Bob McMullan visited Samoa, Tonga and Kiribati in February, and stated:
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|See Australia–Fiji relations |
Relations with Fiji are strained due to Australia's condemnation of the military coup which overthrew the government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase in December 2006. Military leader and "interim Prime Minister" Voreqe Bainimarama accused Australia of "bullying" Fiji by applying sanctions and insisting on a swift return to a democratic government. In March 2008 the Fiji Human Rights Commission published a report which alleged that Australia might have been planning an armed intervention in Fiji in late 2006. Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith dismissed the allegations, and stated: "The best thing that can happen in Fiji is not spurious suggestions about Australian activity but having an election, returning Fiji to democracy, respecting human rights".
On 4 November 2009, Fijian military leader, Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, expelled the Australian high commissioner James Batley and his New Zealand counterpart. He said that Australia and New Zealand had tried to undermine Fiji's judiciary and weaken its economy. New Zealand and Australia disputed key aspects of Fiji's claims. In response, Australia quickly expelled Fiji's acting high commissioner, Kamlesh Kumar Arya.
|See Australia–Federated States of Micronesia relations |
|See Australia–Nauru relations |
Australian-Nauruan relations go back almost a century. Australia administered Nauru as a dependent territory from 1914 to 1968, and has remained one of Nauru's foremost economic and aid partners thereafter.
Relations between Australia and Nauru were essentially framed by the Pacific Solution, whereby Nauru housed a detention centre for unauthorised refugee applicants who had attempted to enter Australia, and Australia provided financial aid in return. The detention centre was closed by Australia in February 2008, causing Nauru to express concern regarding the future of its economy. [ citation needed ]
|See Australia–New Zealand relations |
The relationship between Australia and New Zealand is exceptionally close on both the national and interpersonal scales. This close relationship goes back to the time of the first World War and the ANZAC Spirit forged at Gallipoli. Former New Zealand Prime Minister Mike Moore declared that Australians and New Zealanders have more in common than New Yorkers and Californians.
|See Australia–Palau relations |
|See Australia–Papua New Guinea relations |
Papua New Guinea is Australia's closest neighbour, and former dependent territory. Relations between Canberra and Port Moresby are close, although there have been tensions in recent years. Papua New Guinea has developed much closer relations with Australia than with Indonesia, the only country it shares a border with. The two countries are Commonwealth realms, and Papua New Guinea benefits from economic development aid from Australia.
|See Australia–Solomon Islands relations |
Under the government of John Howard, Australia's relations with Manasseh Sogavare's Solomon Islands were strained, primarily because of the "Julian Moti affair". Sogavare notably accused Australia of conducting neo-colonialism in the Solomons via RAMSI. On 1 October 2007, the Solomon Islands' Foreign Affairs Minister Patteson Oti addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations, and accused Australia of undermining his country's sovereignty:
This led Australia to exercise its right of reply, denying the accusation. Relations subsequently improved when both Howard and Sogavare lost office in December 2007, and their successors -Kevin Rudd and Derek Sikua- immediately set out to improve relations between Canberra and Honiara.
Australia currently leads the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, at the request of the Governor-General of the Solomon Islands.
|See Australia–Tonga relations |
Following the 2006 riots in Tonga, Australia sent police officers, at Tonga's request, to help stabilise the situation in the kingdom.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs [found] "While Australia and New Zealand are of course two sovereign nations, it seems to the committee that the strong ties between the two countries – the economic, cultural, migration, defence, governmental and people-to-people linkages – suggest that an even closer relationship, including the possibility of union, is both desirable and realistic,"