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Canada-Australia Political Relations

Canada-Australia relations are friendly and highly productive. The relationship has developed over a long history and is based on both a shared past and a common set of values. It has been built across a wide spectrum of fields, ranging from trade, defence relations, academic and student exchanges, culture, consular arrangements, parliamentary relations, multilateral cooperation and political and governmental affairs.

At the request of the democratically-elected Afghan government and as part of a UN-mandated, NATO-led mission, Australia and Canada work together in Afghanistan to help its citizens rebuild their country as a stable, democratic and self-sufficient society. In recent years, Canadian troops supported Australian forces in the birth of an independent East Timor.

Canada and Australia enjoy strong and multifaceted bilateral relations. We regularly consult and advance common interests on international issues based on our policy convergence in many areas including defence and security, trade, economic, illegal migration, counterterrorism, counter-proliferation, social (including indigenous), transportation and regional issues. Our defence relationship with Australia is our largest in Asia-Pacific. We also work closely through multilateral institutions, including the UN, the Commonwealth, WTO, G20, OECD, Cairns Group and APEC.

Official relations between Canada and Australia are conducted through respective foreign ministries and the diplomatic missions in each other's country. In Australia, this is the Canadian High Commission in Canberra and the Consulate General in Sydney.  In Canada, the Australian High Commission is located in Ottawa and a Consulate General in Toronto is managed by Austrade.

Commercial Relations

Canada’s long-standing commercial relationship with Australia has been, and continues to be, one that is growing and diversified. The trade relationship between the two countries is largely free of challenges, though Australia’s overly cautionary-cum-protectionist quarantine measures can effectively limit agricultural imports. Australia is identified as a priority market in Canada’s Global Commerce Strategy. In 2010, Australia ranked as Canada’s 16th largest destination for Canadian merchandise exports and Canada ranked 23rd for Australia. Bilateral merchandise trade levels for 2010 were close to $3.4 billion with exports to Australia reaching $1.8 billion and imports at $1.6 billion.

At the end of 2010, two-way direct investment stock was worth almost $23.7 billion. The value of Canadian direct investment to Australia increased significantly (58.1 percent) over 2009 levels to $21.0 billion at the end of 2010. Stocks of foreign direct investment from Australia declined from the previous year, however, and stood at $2.6 billion at the end of 2010.

Much of Canada’s trade with Australia is currently geared toward large companies in traditional sectors such as mining, transportation and forestry, with a notable growing interest in Canadian oil and gas machinery, equipment and technical expertise. At the same time however, many opportunities exist for Canadian companies to pursue in high-growth, knowledge-based sectors.

There is also increasing interest from Australian think-tanks, academia and corporations to share knowledge and expertise in the area of corporate social responsibility, particularly in response to Canada’s evolving approach to the political, economic and social aspects of Canadian extractive company engagement in global resource development.

The second Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum was held in Toronto in late July 2012. Led by the private sector and sponsored by both the governments of Canada and Australia, the Forum brought together distinguished private and public sector leaders from both countries to share experiences, exchange ideas and create opportunities.

High-Level Visits

In May 2006 Prime Minister John Howard made an official visit to Canada and was the first Australian Prime Minister to address the Canadian Parliament. While in Ottawa he held talks with Prime Minister Harper on issues of interest to both countries, including international security, international trade negotiations, climate change and energy security.

In September 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an official visit to Australia following his participation in the APEC leaders’ meeting in Sydney. During his visit Mr. Harper addressed a joint session of the Australian Parliament. This was the first time a Canadian Prime Minister had addressed the Australian Parliament. He also presented the people of Australia with a rare historic gift – a theatre playbill that was printed in Sydney in 1796 and is the earliest known printed document in Australia. Prime Minister Harper also visited Perth in October 2011 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting

There are regular exchanges of visits of ministers, parliamentarians, senior officials, and defence and security officials. Recent Canadian visitors to Australia have included: the Clerk of the Privy Council (April 2010); the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (September 2010); the Minister of Justice (July 2011); the Minister of National Defence (September 2011); the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (September 2011); and the Minister of International Trade (April 2012).  The Australian Minister of Resources, Energy and Tourism, Martin Ferguson, attended the Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum in Toronto in July 2012, as did former PM and FM Kevin Rudd.

The Canada-Australia Public Policy Initiative (CAPPI) enables federal public servants in our two countries to exchange views on emerging public policy challenges and governance issues. The second version of the CAPPI was held in Ottawa on 10-12 July.  A Bilateral Strategic Dialogue has also been established to discuss foreign policy and security issues.  The inaugural Strategic Dialogue was held in Ottawa on 23-24 April 2012 comprised of Political-Military Talks and Foreign Policy Discussions.

Officer Exchanges

Another important element of the bilateral relationship is the number of Canadian public servants placed in Australian ministries on exchange. At the time of writing, Canadians were assigned in the Australian departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Environment, Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, the Australian Defence Forces and the Attorney-General's Department. These arrangements are reciprocated with Australians working in Canadian federal departments.

Consular Sharing

At a practical level, Canada and Australia have a Consular Sharing Agreement that allows Canadians to receive consular services from Australian officials in 20 countries where Canada does not have an office and for Australians to seek similar assistance from Canadian missions in 23 countries.

Academic and Cultural relations

The political relationship between Canada and Australia is enhanced by a rich set of academic, student and cultural exchanges and events which see a steady stream of scholars and artists travelling between the countries.

On the academic relations side there are more than 180 formal agreements between Australian and Canadian universities, almost 300 members of the Association for Canadian Studies in Australia and New Zealand and more than 2000 Australian and Canadian students enrolled in universities in each others' country.

In the cultural field, renowned Canadian performers such as k. d. lang and Leonard Cohen, have recently visited Australia as well as many emerging independent musicians. John Ralston Saul, Jan Wong, Rick Smith, Bruce Lourie and Alannah Mitchell are some of the writers who have attended Australian literary festivals to promote their work. Two innovative artist residency exchange programs between Canada and Australia have been established in the visual arts and are supported by the Canada Council for the Arts. An Aboriginal Curators delegation recently visited the Biennale of Sydney a festival of contemporary visual arts that featured nine Canadians in 2010. In the film arena, the Canadian Film Festival “Possible Worlds” is an annual showcase of new Canadian cinema that is held each August in Sydney.

The High Commission encourages interaction and dialogue between Canadians and Australians. The successful Federation Dialogues Series, established in 2001 to celebrate Australia’s Centenary of Federation, brings together eminent Canadian and Australians such as Canadian historian Professor Margaret MacMillan, the former Premier of Nunavut, Paul Okalik, and award-winning author Margaret Atwood, in public conversation on subjects of interest to both countries.

September 2012


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Date Modified:
2013-03-12