This week, Foreign Minister Payne and Defence Minister Dutton travel to Washington for the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN), the first cabinet-level meetings between the two countries’ foreign and defence policy principals since the Biden administration assumed office. The meetings take place at a symbolic moment: in the shadow of the 70th anniversary of ANZUS, 20 years since the 9/11 attacks, and just weeks after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Above all, it is a critical opportunity for the Australia-United States alliance to advance an ambitious agenda in the Indo-Pacific.

Ahead of AUSMIN and building on the extensive research of the United States Studies Centre (USSC) at the University of Sydney on the expansive alliance agenda, we invite you to join a special USSC webinar ‘Previewing the Biden administration's first AUSMIN meeting’ on 14 September.

Please find below a synthesis of USSC analysis of key challenges for the bilateral relationship as well as key USSC experts available for comment.

Geoeconomic challenges

Relevant publications & policy recommendations
Trust and diversify: A geoeconomic strategy for the Australia-US alliance
The United States and Australia should:

  1. Expand AUSMIN to address geoeconomic issues.
  2. Establish a joint working group on geoeconomic cooperation.
  3. Develop a cooperative supply chain management agenda.
  4. Construct an attribution mechanism to identify coercion.
  5. Explore cooperative countermeasures against economic coercion.

Coming next week: “Geoeconomic statecraft in an alliance context: Potential and limits”
Australia should work with the United States to:

  1. Engage the US with the WTO reform process and continue to invest in the international trade promotion and trade defence architecture.
  2. Support trade expansion among allies to promote economic resilience instead of trade restrictions aimed at China.
  3. Encourage the Biden administration to formulate an international trade and China strategy that marries alliance cooperation to geoeconomics.


Indo-Pacific re-orientation

Relevant publication & policy recommendations
Correcting the course: How the Biden administration should compete for influence in the Indo-Pacific

To compete for influence in the Indo-Pacific, the Biden administration should:

  1. Clearly identify the Indo-Pacific region as its foreign and defence policy priority and marshal resources accordingly.
  2. Articulate clear goals for its relationship with China and its strategic position in the Indo-Pacific region.
  3. Signal its commitment to a strategy of deterrence by denial to prevent Chinese aggression and bolster its investments in Western Pacific military posture to reinforce its credibility.
  4. Empower its allies to assume greater responsibility for their own defence requirements by reducing legislative and political obstacles to allied self-strengthening.
  5. Pay special attention to Southeast Asia as a region of strategic importance, given its geography, size and the fluidity of its alignment dynamics.


Collective deterrence and defence

Relevant publication & policy recommendations
State of the United States: An evolving alliance agenda
The United States and Australia should:

  1. Explore options for combined strategic and military planning centred around high-value scenarios and maritime operations.
  2. Establish formal channels for coordinating counter grey zone activities in maritime Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
  3. Facilitate greater Australian use of US operating locations across the Indo-Pacific.
  4. Establish a combined Australia-US munitions manufacturing project in Australia.
  5. Utilise the NTIB to expand the range and depth of defence innovation challenges among its members.


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