Op-Ed: Obama and Abbott: The U.S. and Australia make common cause in the Pacific

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Last week, at the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings at Normandy, we remembered how Australian airmen flew overhead as Americans and Allied forces surged ashore with extraordinary bravery and at great cost. Overlooking those sacred shores, we paid tribute to all those who gave their lives, and to the veterans still among us whose service allows us to live free today.

On Thursday, we met at the White House to discuss not only how our countries have stood together in defense of peace and freedom during every major conflict of the past century, but also how we will work together going forward on a range of economic and security issues.

Australia and the United States have consistently stood together, not just for our own security but for the well-being of people far beyond our borders. Today, we are standing shoulder to shoulder against terrorism, and we continue to work together training and supporting Afghan forces as they prepare to assume responsibility for their own future.


Thursday’s meeting examined new challenges. As Pacific nations, both of our countries have benefited from the explosion of economic growth and development in Asia over the last half-century. Tens of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, and a burgeoning middle class of hundreds of millions is creating new markets for consumer goods and advanced services. Even as the region faces great challenges, we see the Asia Pacific as a place of opportunities to be realized and a source of greater security and prosperity for both of our peoples.

Australia welcomes and fully supports the U.S. effort to rebalance its foreign relations with a greater focus on Asia and the Pacific, a shift that recognizes that America’s future is inextricably linked to the people and nations of the world’s fastest-growing region.

Under an initiative our nations agreed to in 2011, U.S. Marines and aircraft are now training with their Australian counterparts in northern Australia. This will also give our forces more opportunities to exercise with other regional partners, so that we are better placed to respond to natural disasters, such as the recent Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Thanks to the new and broader Force Posture Agreement that we just concluded, our two nations have the opportunity for even deeper defense collaboration in Asia. The agreement recognizes that we must adapt to new strategic circumstances — and that we will do more together to support the stability and security of an open, rules-based region on which the future prosperity of all countries depends.

The Asian economic miracle could not have occurred without regional stability and security. And today, both Australia and the United States are concerned that increasingly provocative behavior in advancing maritime territoriality claims in Asia poses an increasing risk of miscalculation and, in the worst case, of conflict. This would be a tragedy, all the more so for being an avoidable one. Neither the United States nor Australia takes a position on sovereignty in these territorial disputes. But we both strongly oppose the use of intimidation, coercion or aggression to advance any country’s claims.

If we want to live in a prosperous region, international disputes must be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law, and all options for serious efforts at dispute resolution — including arbitration — should be available. Freedom of lawful sea and air navigation must be sustained, so that the movement of goods and people on which we all depend continues uninterrupted.


Both of our nations are also committed to working harder to remove the barriers to trade and to economic growth and the jobs they create. We are strongly committed to concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will deepen integration among economies that account for almost 40% of global GDP, 11% of the world’s population and more than one-quarter of global trade. The TPP will enhance trade and investment opportunities, reduce costs for business and create jobs for both our peoples.

Finally, and more broadly, as this year’s chair of the G-20, Australia is working closely with the United States to focus the world’s largest economies on boosting economic growth and creating jobs. All G-20 members need to show leadership by meeting their commitments to pursue strong, sustainable and balanced growth. The Brisbane summit in November will be an opportunity to put in place strong measures to strengthen infrastructure investment, promote energy efficiency, fight tax avoidance and evasion, and complete the financial regulatory reform agenda outlined by the G-20 in response to the global financial crisis.

The challenges our nations face in the world today are numerous and complex. The partnerships we need among nations for common approaches to shared problems are not easily forged. But standing with our D-day veterans in Normandy and reflecting on all they achieved seven decades ago, we were reminded of a simple truth: When our countries stand together, our nations and the world are more secure, more prosperous and more just. Bound by our shared history and values, that is the cause to which we rededicate ourselves today.

Barack Obama is president of the United States. Tony Abbott is prime minister of Australia.