At a policy symposium on the future of the US-Australian alliance Australian minister for resources and energy Martin Ferguson told an audience at the residence of Australian Ambassador to the United States Kim Beazley that American investment was playing a critical role in Australia’s ongoing mining boom. Large scale projects such as Chevron’s Gorgon and Wheatstone natural gas facilities in Western Australia and the Origin Energy-Conoco Phillips coal seam gas facility outside Gladstone in Queensland represent some of the largest ever foreign investment projects in Australia, with much of their output destined for energy-hungry markets in emerging Asia. Ferguson said that the new emphasis on natural gas in addition to coal and iron ore showed that Australia’s comparative advantage in minerals and energy is likely to continue for many years to come, with global demand for other energy sources such as uranium projected to grow in the coming decades.
Speaking over breakfast to a symposium audience of corporate executives, government officials, and think tank and academic leaders from both Australia and the United States, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell and Australian Ambassador to the United States Kim Beazley discussed emerging security challenges facing both countries in the Middle East as well as broader strategic priorities in the Asia Pacific. Regarding the Middle East, both speakers focused on rising tensions regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Kurt Campbell then discussed President Obama’s November 2011 speech to the Australian Parliament in which he said the US is “all in” regarding the Asia-Pacific century. Campbell argued that the US strategy towards China has evolved from the “engage, but hedge” of the Bush administration to trying to “shape” Chinese behaviour by articulating “rules of the road” in both economic and strategic affairs for the region, including the Trans Pacific Partnership for free trade and the East Asian Summit’s new focus on territorial issues in the South China Sea.
The first panel session on Defence and Security then focused much of its attention on the capacity of the US to execute the foreign policy “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific proposed by the Obama administration. Former senior US State Department official Nicholas Burns said that continuing US dominance in Asia is essential to peace and stability in the region. Former senior US Defence Department official Douglas Feith expressed concern about the impact of projected Defence Department budget cuts over the next decade on the US’s ability to maintain its strategic dominance. Former Secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Michael L’Estrange reminded the audience that the term pivot is somewhat misleading both because the US has had an active defence and security presence in Asia for decades and because the US will inevitably continue to play a lead role in the Middle East.
The second panel on trade and investment discussed both the ongoing China-led economic miracle in emerging Asia and the new momentum towards Asia-Pacific regional economic institutions. Both former Clinton appointee Susan Shirk and Australian bank economist Huw McKay emphasized China’s transition from a low cost assembler of goods to a large middle class market, as well as China’s desire to develop its own global champion firms to learn from and then compete with multinational companies operating in China. Former Australian Ambassador to the United StatesMichael Thawley, a lead negotiator in the 2005 Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, lauded President Obama’s commitment to complete a framework agreement for the Trans Pacific Partnership by the end of 2012. But he noted that this will goal will be difficult to meet given the complex nature of multilateral negotiations and said that Australia must ensure the TPP remains a high quality agreement modelled on AUSFTA.
The Symposium concluded with a lunchtime address by Fred Bergsten, Director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, on the TPP. Bergsten said that with the Doha round of global trade talks unlikely to be in reach of clear positive conclusion, moving to an Asia-Pacific regional agreement was the best course for trade liberalization in the region. But he also noted that TPP serves important geopolitical objectives for the US, including entrenching a set of economic principles in the region endorsed by the US but currently not supported by China. Bergsten also argued for the importance of expanding TPP membership beyond the current group of countries led by the US and Australia to include major Asian economies like Japan, even though this would put lowest common denominator pressures on the agreement—particularly in agriculture.
Dinner and Keynote: “Energy Security and Diplomacy” Martin Ferguson, AM MP, Minister for Resources and Energy, Member for Batman 18 January
Opening Remarks: Australia-US Security Alliance: ‘Great Expectations’
HE Ambassador Kim Beazley, AC, Australian Ambassador the United States
The Honorable Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, US Department of State
Moderator: Professor Robert Hill, Adjunct Professor in Sustainability, US Studies Centre, University of Sydney, and Chancellor, University of Adelaide, Former Australian Ambassador to the United Nations (2006-2009), Minister of Defence (2001-2006), and Minister for the Environment (1996-2001)
Session I: Defense and Security
Ambassador Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Kennedy School of Government, Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (2005-2008); US Ambassador to NATO (2001-2005), to Greece (1997-2001), and State Department Spokesman (1995-1997)
Dr Douglas Feith, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for National Security Strategies, Hudson Institute, Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (2001-2005)
Mr Michael L’Estrange, AO, Director, National Security College, Australian National University, Former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2005-2009), Former Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (2000-2005)
Moderator: Dr Russell Trood, Adjunct Professor, United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney, and Australian Special Envoy to Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Caucasus, Former Chair, Australian Senate Standing References Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (2005-2011)
Session II: Trade and Investment
Dr Susan Shirk, Director, Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, and Ho Miu Lam Professor on China and Pacific Relations, University of California, Founder, Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD) (security dialogue between US, Japan, China, Russia, and the Koreas), and Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs (1997-2000)
Mr Huw McKay, Executive Director and Senior International Economist, Westpac Banking Corporation, Former Principal Advisor, Macroeconomic Group, Treasury of Australia
Ambassador Michael Thawley, AO, Senior Vice President, The Capital Group, Former Australian Ambassador to the United States (2000-2005), and International Adviser to Australian Prime Minister John Howard (1996-1999)
Moderator: Dr Geoffrey Garrett, Founding CEO, United States Studies Centre, and Professor of Political Science, University of Sydney, Former President, Pacific Council on International Policy (2005-2008), and Dean, UCLA International Institute (2001-2005)
Lunch and Keynote: “A US perspective on the Trans-Pacific Partnership”
Dr C. Fred Bergsten, Director, Peterson Institute for International Economics, Former Undersecretary of the Treasury for Monetary Affairs (1980-1981), and Assis