US President Joe Biden was unable to visit Australia this week due to the ongoing debt crisis in the US, but he was able to make time for a shortened trip to Hiroshima in Japan to attend the G7 summit over the weekend.
A hastily rescheduled itinerary saw the President make time for a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, as well as a shortened meeting of the Quad with Mr Albanese and the leaders of Japan and India.
The bilateral meeting covered a wide range of subjects, including climate change and clean energy transition; defence issues including AUKUS; harnessing emerging technologies; technology sharing for space, cyber and online crime; and trade and economic resilience.
In a joint statement, Mr Biden and Mr Albanese said the partnership between the two countries reflects more than a hundred years of trust, respect, friendship and shared sacrifice.
“Our relationship is founded on a shared commitment to supporting an open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific, and a peaceful, inclusive and rules-based international order based on respect for international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states,” the statement said.
During the meeting, Australia and the US signed a statement of intent to advance climate cooperation through the Australia-United States Climate, Critical Minerals, and Clean Energy Transformation Compact.
“Under the Compact, Australia and the United States intend for our private sectors, resources, and industrial strength to drive innovation and accelerate the establishment of a responsible, secure, and inclusive global clean energy economy,” they said.
“We intend to coordinate to spur the diversification and expansion of clean energy supply chains, address the growing energy demands of the Indo-Pacific, and enhance the Indo-Pacific’s role as a primary driver of global prosperity.”
They also committed to work to halt and even reverse environmental degradation through increased coordination among agencies from both countries.
“This collaboration is being enhanced through a new arrangement to advance Pacific Ocean exploration and mapping between the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Geoscience Australia, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.”
On defence, the two leaders appeared to build upon efforts underway on both sides of the Pacific to relax bureaucratic and security barriers that have previously hampered the sharing of some technologies.
“We are prioritising improving information sharing and technology cooperation mechanisms required to advance our defence and security collaboration, including through AUKUS,” they said.
“The President plans to ask Congress to add Australia as a ‘domestic source’ within the meaning of Title III of the Defense Production Act. Doing so would streamline technological and industrial base collaboration, accelerate and strengthen AUKUS implementation, and build new opportunities for United States investment in the production and purchase of Australian critical minerals, critical technologies, and other strategic sectors.”
Some of these emerging technologies fall under the Pillar 2 of the AUKUS agreement.
“We are determined to deepen cooperation on initiatives to be delivered in the coming year, and to work bilaterally and with partners to drive innovation and responsible norms and standards for emerging technologies as we lead the quantum revolution,” the statement said.
The two leaders also acknowledged the importance of facilitating the free flow of data, and reiterated “our shared commitment to participating in multilateral fora such as the Global Cross-Border Privacy Rules Forum, which was established to support the free flow of data and effective data protection and privacy globally”.
In the space domain, in which Australia is a rapidly growing player, the US has undertaken – subject to Congressional approval – to increase collaboration in the sector.
“Australia and the United States have reached agreement in principle … to allow for the controlled transfer of sensitive US launch technology and data while protecting US technology consistent with US non‑proliferation policy, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and US export controls.”
In a global security context, the statement acknowledged the threats posed to global order by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s violation of the UN Charter and the resulting global food and energy insecurity the war is causing, and they endorsed a further tranche of sanctions and trade measures imposed upon Russia by the G7.
“We once again call on Russia to immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw its forces from within the internationally recognised borders of Ukraine.”
Closer to home, the statement endorsed India’s G20 presidency and that forum’s stated focus on sustainable development, and on working closer with “the Pacific Islands Forum and other long-standing Pacific regional institutions to listen to and partner with the countries of the Pacific to meet the region’s needs”.