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Economic Factors Have Been of Dominant Concern in Australian Foreign Policy Decisions over the Past 25 Years

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During the past 25 years, Australian Foreign Policy has consisted of a balance between economic and security priorities. No government can afford to focus on one to the detriment of the other. During the Hawke and Keating era (1983-1996), economic factors were of significant importance as we were in a region that was growing rapidly, faster than any other region in the world. Although having said this, it can be argued that there were exceptions whereby security initiatives were of equal concern to the government. In the current day (Howard era), it is possible to view that there is a higher emphasis on security initiatives than ever before due to being situated in a heavily volatile region (Arc of Instability). Having said this, there once again has been emphasis on the economic growth and prosperity of our nation at the same time, via the use of Trade Agreements and other forms of economic policy. This indicates that although there have been concern on economic factors in the past 25 years in relation to Australian Foreign Policy (AFP) decisions, there has also been a balanced emphasis on security factors during this period.

There is no doubt that during the Hawke/Keating era (83-96) economic

priorities received significant emphasis in Australian Foreign Policy decisions. To promote the economic growth and increase of trade in the Asia Pacific Region, the Hawke government embarked on a period of ‘enmeshment’ within the region. Keating proposed this enmeshment with neighboring “Tiger Economies” by co-founding the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Corporation), in 1989. Focused on facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region, it was seen as being crucial to maintain healthy international diplomatic relations within the Asia - Pacific region. This was largely due to the strengthening trading blocks such as the EU (European Union) and NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement). These trading blocks exclusively stipulated that major trading was being transacted via these member economies and was ruling Australia out of many valuable markets. This reinforced that Australia must turn towards its own region for the concentration of developing itself as a strong economy and therefore founded the APEC organization under its Policy decision to achieve this. This became a major focus during the Hawke and Keating era and was of concern when making new Foreign Policy decisions.

Another contributing factor that saw the focus on economic foreign policy decisions during the Hawke and Keating era was the establishment of the Cairns Group. As access to global markets and the effective liberation of agriculture trading, Australia engaged itself in the Cairns Group of Fair Trading Nations (which was founded by Australia). Founded in 1986, its aim (interest) was to ensure open markets for agricultural goods and promote that agricultural trade issues would be given a high priority in the Multilateral Trade Negotiations. This was imperative to Australia’s national interest as under the USA’s Export Enhancement Program, the USA undercut Australian agricultural trading alliances with countries and overtook them in markets such as Japan, one of our greatest trading partners. This limited and severely affected Australian agricultural exports and markets to trading nations as now that market was covered by the USA, who were competing at subsidized prices and undercutting our markets. This resulted in the Cairns Group being invoked that pursued the goals of the liberation of agricultural trade. This assisted Australia in maintaining an agricultural market that ensured the safety of the market. This foreign policy decision by the government clearly indicated the concern of economic factors in the region and showed how economic conditions are imperative to the national interest of a nation.

However, during the Hawke and Keating era, there was also a balance of security priorities maintained by the government along with these economic priorities. The participation of Australia in the 1991 Gulf War clearly indicated Australian security policy initiatives. The keenness to assist the USA in the 1991 Gulf War showed the Australian government to have closer diplomatic ties and increase the relationship in the aim of strengthening our ‘insurance policy’ with the USA. This insurance policy was based on the assumption that by making regular down payments to the USA such as assisting in Gulf War 1, or the War on Terror it would have insurance and have the assistance of the USA if they saw the need to invoke the ANZUS treaty. This is a vital interest to the security of Australia in such a volatile region as it gave them a ‘Great

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