The relationship between Australia and the United States is unique in its breadth, depth and length, and is characterised by genuine cultural affinity and a spirit of collaboration.
The two countries’ contemporary relationship encompasses many shared fields of endeavour; including defence and security cooperation, extensive trade and investment links creating jobs for Australians and Americans, cultural exchanges, sporting rivalry, education participation, research and development, and tourism.
Bilateral relations overview
In 2018, Australia and the United States marked a centenary of mateship – a friendship first formed in the trenches of World War I during the Battle of Hamel on 4 July 1918. The two countries maintain a strong relationship, characterised by cultural similarities and robust bilateral arrangements. There are strong formal structures of cooperation between Australia and the United States spanning foreign policy, defence and security, intelligence, development, energy, environment, education, law, trade and investment. The Australia-United States Alliance and the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) are central to the bilateral relationship, which also benefits from widespread collaboration across government, academia, and business.
Australia and the United States established diplomatic relations on 8 January 1940. Following the establishment of Australian and US Legations in March and July 1940 respectively, the White House announced the elevation of the Legations to Embassy status on 9 July 1946. Australia's first Ambassador to the United States, Norman J O Makin, presented his credentials to the US Government on 11 September 1946. The first US Ambassador to Australia, Robert Butler, presented his credentials on 25 September 1946.
Defence and security overview
A central pillar of relations between Australia and the United States is the 'ANZUS' Treaty, which was originally an agreement between Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The ANZUS Treaty was signed by the parties in San Francisco in 1951 and entered into force in 1952. The ANZUS Treaty underpins the Australia-United States Alliance. It binds Australia and the United States to consult on mutual threats, and, in accordance with our respective constitutional processes, to act to meet common dangers. Australia invoked the ANZUS Treaty for the first time on 14 September 2001 in response to the terrorist attacks of 11 September.
The Alliance is the foundation of defence and security cooperation between Australia and the United States. It increases Australia's ability to protect itself and its interests by providing access to world-leading defence hardware and technologies, training courses and combined exercises, as well as vital intelligence capabilities. In facilitating such cooperation, the Alliance supports regional engagement, security and stability, underpinning prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. It also enables joint efforts against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Both countries are committed to working together to help shape international norms to advance vital shared interests in the sea, air and outer space, as well as to advance important matters related to cybersecurity. Further information about the defence relationship is available on the Australian Department of Defence website.
The Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) are held between foreign and defence ministers on a regular basis. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosted Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles on 6 December in Washington D.C. for the 32nd Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN 2022). Outcomes from AUSMIN 2022 are outlined in the Joint Statement.
In addition to AUSMIN, senior officials regularly meet with US counterparts on a broad range of issues including political-military meetings and military-military talks.
Key highlights of the AU-US relationship:
- Over 10,000 Australian companies sell to or operate in the United States
- Australian companies employ an estimated 180,000 people in the United States
- Australian companies invested an estimated US $20.9 billion on new capital projects in the US between January 2003 and February 2017
- Over 1.3 million Australian tourists visit the United States each year
- Australian visitors spend over US $8.7 billion in the US, supporting thousands of jobs across all 50 states
- Australia has around 500 defence personnel and their families posted in the United States
- Australia’s defence presence in the US is spread across over 30 states
- Our 75 year old intelligence sharing relationship has helped make both our countries safer and more secure.
- Australia produces almost 4% of new knowledge to the world, with only 0.3% of the population
- Nearly 40,000 joint scientific publications between AU and the US between 2010-14
- The US is Australia’s largest research collaborator
- Australia is the seventh most popular study abroad destination for US students
- The US is one of the most popular outbound destinations for Australian students
- Australian athletes are increasingly making their presence felt across professional sports leagues in the United States – most notably the NBA and NFL – as well as in college sports
- Australia has a strong track record of hosting major sporting events including: 2000 Olympics, the Rugby World Cup, the ICC Cricket World Cup, the Asian Football Cup and Netball World Cup
- Australia is a crucial partner to the United States’ space program. Our facilities helped with the Apollo 11 moon landing and remain vital to space exploration today
- Today, US marines are stationed in Darwin in Australia’s north, and our servicemen and women are working together in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: United States (Overview)