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Pence Heads to Australia to Talk Trade, Security

  • Phil Mercer

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a town hall with business leaders in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, April 4, 2017.

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence will arrive in Australia later Friday for a visit that is expected to focus on regional security and trade.

The vice president is considered by Australian officials to be a “calm and measured” presence in President Donald Trump’s administration. He has been on a tour of Asia to reassure allies of Washington’s commitment to the region under Trump’s leadership. In Australia, Pence will be among friends.

Trade is top of mind

Business discussions are expected to be a key part of his visit, including how to remove remaining trade barriers between Australia and the United States, which is the biggest foreign investor in Australia. Two-way trade is worth more than $41 billion.

Professor Fariborz Moshirian is the director of the Institute of Global Finance at the University of New South Wales Business School in Sydney.

“Australia and the U.S. have (a) very close business relationship,” Moshirian said. “They have got (a) free trade agreement between the two countries and naturally one of the key points that could be raised is how to enhance free trade between these two countries as well as in the region.”

Reviving parts of TPP

Trump’s decision to scrap the world’s biggest trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, was met with dismay in Australia, one of a dozen countries that signed the agreement last year.

Trump said the deal was a job-killing disaster, and Moshirian says officials in Canberra hope parts of the TPP can be revived without the United States.

“That has been very disappointing from Australia’s point of view,” Moshirian said. “But at the same time, Australia, and to some extent maybe Japan and even Mexico, are now trying to continue, if you like, dialogue about TPP in the absence of the U.S. So we have to really wait and see.”

Tensions over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, as well as territorial disputes in the South China Sea, also will likely be discussed during the vice president’s three-day visit to Australia.

Canberra and Washington have a solid military alliance dating back to the early 1950s, and successive Australian leaders have asserted the relationship is the foundation for their nation’s security.

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