Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, Minister for Defence Marise Payne, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter met on October 13 in Boston for the Australia-United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) consultations.
The United States-Australia Alliance and bilateral relationship
Seventy five years after the United States and Australia established diplomatic relations, more than 60 years into our alliance, and a decade into our free trade agreement, our common values and shared history form the foundation of a lasting partnership that remains crucial to addressing a range of regional and global challenges.
The United States and Australia reaffirmed the strong state of bilateral defense and security cooperation under the Alliance, bolstered by more than a decade of operations together in Afghanistan and Iraq and more recently through our work together as part of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The two countries reiterated their commitment to implement fully the U.S. Force Posture Initiatives in Australia through a stepped growth in rotational presence in line with available infrastructure in 2016 and beyond. Both sides shared the view that this cooperation demonstrates the United States’ strong commitment to the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region, provides new opportunities for joint regional security cooperation, and reaffirms Australia’s strong support for the goals of the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.
They also decided to pursue enhanced naval cooperation across all domains, including additional combined training and exercises to strengthen both countries’ capacity to conduct maritime domain awareness and amphibious operations.
Senator Payne and Secretary Carter signed a Joint Statement on Defense Cooperation, which articulates the principles underpinning defense cooperation and which is intended to serve as a guide for future cooperation.
In keeping with the positive role that the Alliance has played in regional prosperity and security, the Statement underscores the United States’ and Australia’s enduring commitment to further enhance the interoperability of their military forces and their intelligence cooperation; strengthen collaboration on policy, planning and capability development; and build cooperation with regional partners.
The Statement also highlights the continued high level of cooperation between the United States and Australia on shared defense science, technology, and industry objectives, and reaffirms both countries’ shared intent to further develop opportunities to pursue innovative collaboration in these fields.
Both sides welcomed the successful conduct of the high-end bilateral exercise TALISMAN SABRE 2015, which included over 30,000 participants and featured increased civilian-military cooperation. They committed to further building the exercise for its next iteration in 2017.
The two countries decided that Australian and US border agencies should establish a bilateral strategic dialogue on a new Joint Border Protection Initiative to enhance timely information and intelligence sharing relating to border security.
Noting that 2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, both countries welcomed the dynamism and diversity in the economic relationship, including significant business engagement and substantial two-way investment, which serve to boost productivity, innovation and economic growth.
The United States and Australia reiterated their intent to work together to deepen regional economic integration, and welcomed conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). They agreed to continue working toward bringing TPP into force in order to reduce business costs, and to promote growth, job creation and higher living standards across the region.
The United States and Australia recognized the close links between the people of both countries, including the over 1.6 million annual travelers between the two countries who contribute billions of dollars to local economies.
Both sides expect to continue collaboration on innovation, energy, science, technology, space, and health.
They affirmed their commitment to exploring opportunities for innovative development solutions through USAID’s Global Development Lab and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s InnovationXchange.
The two countries noted their history of providing assistance to each other during some of the worst fire seasons in the past 50 years, including the contributions of Australian firefighters during the 2015 wildfire season in the United States.
The Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region
Australia and the United States committed to remain deeply engaged in the economically and strategically significant Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region. They recognized that building prosperity and maintaining stability in these regions was of vital importance to both countries.
Both countries discussed the importance of working through regional fora to support security, stability, economic growth and regional integration. They welcomed efforts to strengthen the East Asia Summit (EAS) as the region’s premier leaders-led forum for strategic dialogue.
Both countries welcomed the continued contributions of the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus to fostering cooperation and dialogue on security issues. They expect to work closely to advance the agenda of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
They expressed strong concerns over recent Chinese land reclamation and construction activity in the South China Sea. They called on all claimant states to halt land reclamation, construction, and militarization. They urged claimants to exercise restraint, take steps to ease tensions and refrain from provocative actions that could escalate tensions.
They noted the recent statement by China's President that China does not intend to pursue militarization of features in the Spratly Islands, and underscored the importance that China follow through on its commitment and take other similar steps to defuse tensions associated with its land reclamation program.
They called on governments to clarify and pursue territorial claims and accompanying maritime rights in accordance with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
They also called for the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China to ensure practical implementation of commitments under the Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea, and to reach agreement on a substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea as soon as possible. They emphasized the importance of the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea enjoyed by all states to fly, sail, and operate in accordance with international law.
Both countries reaffirmed the importance of a constructive relationship with China through dialogue, cooperation, and economic engagement.
They discussed the strength of their bilateral security relationships with Japan, and commitment to enhancing trilateral cooperation, including through the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (TSD).
They reaffirmed their intent to work with the Republic of Korea to support global and regional growth and stability, and to address security challenges in the region, including on the Korean Peninsula.
Underscoring deep concerns about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) continued contravention of UN Security Council resolutions, both countries called on the DPRK to comply with its international commitments and obligations, including by abandoning its nuclear, missile and proliferation activities. They looked forward to the continued engagement of the UN Security Council in addressing the situation in the DPRK, including its deplorable human rights record.
Both sides recognized India’s strategic and economic importance in the Asia-Pacific region, and welcomed growing engagement and increased cooperation with India on a range of security issues, particularly counter-terrorism, maritime security, countering transnational crime and cyber policy.
Acknowledging Indonesia’s important regional role, both countries intend to continue to work with the administration of President Joko Widodo to address regional security challenges, including countering terrorism and countering violent extremism (CVE).
Recognizing the shared economic and strategic interests between Australia, the United States and Thailand, both countries reiterated their support for Thailand’s return to democracy, and stressed the importance of protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Both sides acknowledged their shared hope that November 2015 elections in Burma would represent another step forward in Burma’s democratic transition and provide a path towards lasting peace and prosperity in Burma. They committed to remain constructively engaged with Burma as it embraces economic, political and social reform.
The United States and Australia explored avenues for collaboration in the South Pacific, including through initiatives such as Australia’s Pacific Maritime Security Program and other efforts to assist Pacific Island countries build a stable, secure, and prosperous region.
Both countries welcomed Fiji’s return to democracy following elections in 2014.
They highlighted the need to achieve the sustainable management of oceans and fisheries, and plan to continue efforts to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The two countries expressed their intention to work closely together on regional efforts to empower women and girls, including joint programs that support women entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Both countries welcomed the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and its strong focus on economic growth, gender equality, women’s economic empowerment, peace and good governance.
Australia and the United States reiterated their strong commitment to the collective defense of Iraq by degrading and defeating ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
They reaffirmed the need for a negotiated political solution in Syria. They called on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians and to focus its efforts on fighting ISIL.
They renewed their call on the international community to resettle individuals fleeing the crises and to contribute to the appeals of humanitarian actors responding to the crisis.
They discussed local, regional, and global CVE efforts and to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, acknowledging progress made since the White House CVE Summit and the Sydney Regional CVE Summit.
They decided to continue collaboration on best practices for addressing the threat at the international level, including through the United Nations and the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum and its inspired institutions such as Hedayah and the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF), at the national level, including through legislation, immigration and consular policies, and at the local level, including through the newly created Strong Cities Network.
The United States and Australia committed to continue working together, with the wider international community, to promote security, peace, development, human rights and rule of law in Afghanistan.
Both countries expressed support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed between the P5+1 and Iran and reiterated their commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The United States and Australia echoed the international community in condemning Russian aggression in Ukraine, including Russia’s occupation of Crimea, and called on Russia and the separatists to fully implement all Minsk commitments as the path to a peaceful resolution to the ongoing violence in eastern Ukraine.
The United States expressed support for the work of the Joint Investigation Team – which includes Australia – in seeking to ensure that those responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 are held to account. Both countries welcomed the recent findings of the Dutch Safety Board investigation. The report, which was based on an extensive independent civil investigation, concluded that MH17 was shot down by a BUK surface-to-air missile.
Recognizing the shared challenge posed by malicious cyber actors, both countries decided to strengthen further information sharing and interoperability in cyberspace. Both countries underscored their position that international law applies to state conduct in cyberspace, endorsed the consensus report of the 2015 UN Group of Government Experts on this subject, and further expressed the view that no country should conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors.
The United States and Australia reaffirmed commitments to continue international cooperation on addressing irregular migration and refugee challenges and to support underfunded humanitarian appeals.
Recognizing the challenge climate change poses to the security and livelihoods of all, the United States and Australia reiterated their resolve to work toward an ambitious climate agreement at the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change in Paris later in 2015.
Australia offered to host the next AUSMIN meeting in 2016.
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