The Recent Australian-US Ministerial in Palo Alto: The Challenges in the Trump Era

By Tony Walker

Behind the staged Australian-Ministerial (AUSMIN) press conference in Palo Alto, California overnight reside more questions than answers about the trajectory of the US-Australia relationship in a disruptive Donald Trump era.

True Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, declared the relationship “rock solid”.

True he asserted “the US and Australia both know we can rely on each other”.

True Defence Secretary James Mattis told us the “US and Australia will walk-the-walk in the Indo-Pacific”.

Whatever that all means.

We are not living in the same world as was the case in the fairly recent past when earlier AUSMIN sessions assumed a pro-forma and largely ritualistic declaration of fealty to our shared diplomatic, security and economic interests under the ANZUS Treaty.

In this latest period, a combination of China’s rise and America’s unsteadiness under an unpredictable President means that emollient words accompanying these interchanges between governments invite scepticism….

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop should be given credit for a fairly bold and clear-eyed perspective on where things stand in relations with a great and powerful friend now undergoing its own internal political traumas.

Ms Bishop told a Chatham House gathering in London earlier this month:

“Our closest ally and the world’s most powerful nation is being seen as less predictable and less committed to the international order it pioneered. There is an increasing tendency for nations to take a one-sided, unilateral approach to some of their international interests, including economic interests. The US is now favouring a more disruptive, often unilateral foreign trade policy that has hardened anxiety about its commitment to the rules-based order that it established, protected and guaranteed…..”

Tony Walker is an adjunct professor in the School of Communications at La Trobe University.

First published on July 25, 2018 by ABC News Australia and the full article can be found here: