The unprecedented US presidential election campaign and the threat of Australia being “wedged” by China means that leaders on both sides of the Pacific must immediately address the looming risks to the Australia-US alliance, according to a new report by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

The report outlines twelve recommendations for strengthening the Australia-US alliance including granting home port access to US Navy vessels in Australia, boosting cooperation in space and quantum computing, supporting closer US-Indonesia ties, preparing a “Plan B” for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, reenergising the US-Australia-Japan-India relationship and coordinating human rights promotion.

While the alliance remains deeper, closer and more relevant than ever, the report urges the next American president and the Australian government to reiterate their commitment to the alliance and the region while attending to domestic anxieties about globalisation and security, and the regional and global strategic balance.

The author, Alliance 21 Fellow Richard Fontaine, produced the report following two months in Australia earlier in the year, meeting senior strategic thinkers, government officials and public intellectuals. Fontaine is also the President of the Center for New American Security (CNAS) and served as a foreign policy advisor to Senator John McCain for over five years.

Key findings

  • Australia’s close and growing economic ties with China have fuelled domestic prosperity but created worrying asymmetric vulnerabilities. If handled poorly, they threaten to undermine Australian security and its foreign policy.
  • The Australian government needs to make the case to the Australian people for the US alliance in the most concrete terms possible, and be franker about its regional concerns, without fear-mongering or increasing domestic anxieties.
  • The next US administration should seek additional ways to strengthen the alliance and reiterate its commitment to the Asian rebalance without raising unrealistic expectations in the region or fanning fears of abandonment among American allies in Europe and the Middle East.

The Alliance 21 Fellowship is a joint initiative of the US Studies Centre, the US Embassy in Canberra and the Perth USAsia Centre at the University of Western Australia.