Interview: Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr
Image Credit: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Interview: Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr


As a regional middle power perched on the crossroads of the Indo-Pacific region, Australian diplomacy has entered a more challenging era. In an interview addressing a diverse array of topics, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr spoke with The Diplomat’s Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe about the implications of Australia’s role as a non-permanent member on the UN Security Council, the growing importance of engaging with other middle power states, expanding bilateral relations with Africa and South American nations, Australia’s key transnational security concerns, and his foreign policy agenda in view of a looming federal election.

Now that Australia is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, how will the Government use its influence? For instance, will the vexed issue of Security Council reform be addressed?

Bob Carr: Australia has highlighted the need for the UN to become more responsive and we support reform of the Security Council to make it more effective and representative of the UN membership. On reform of membership we support expansion of permanent and non-permanent membership to ensure a better geographic balance including permanent membership for Japan, Brazil, and India, and two permanent seats for Africa. We oppose extension of the veto to new permanent members. We will use our time on the Council in 2013-14 to work with other Council members to increase transparency and effectiveness. We are supporting more interaction and dialogue with the broader UN membership on peace and security issues; increasing the quantity and quality of engagement with regional organisations, in particular the African Union; and identifying a number of ways to improve the efficiency of the Council sanctions committees that we Chair (Al Qaida, Iran and Taliban).

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In what way are middle powers important to Australia? What is the Australian Government’s strategy to leverage its ties with emerging middle powers such as South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil and Chile?

Bob Carr: As we're heading into a world where the poles of power are going to be more dispersed and the capacity of a single country or even a single region to dominate the agenda is going to be severely constrained, Australia recognises the importance of engaging emerging powers. Australia’s membership of key multilateral forums such as the G20, East Asia Summit and, currently,  as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council enables us to engage with emerging powers on a wide range of issues of mutual concern, including global norms. Over the past five years, Australia has substantially strengthened its engagement with the countries and institutions of Africa, including South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt. This policy has led to increased commercial relations, expanding development assistance, and intensifying engagement on African peace and security issues, including through Australia’s term on the UN Security Council.

As South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt’s economic and strategic weight grows, Australia has sought to broaden its dialogue and collaboration with these countries to focus on issues of mutual concern, such as climate change, the global economy and trade liberalization, and regional peace and security issues. Australia and Turkey have a productive relationship, which we are enhancing through frequent high-level visits, including my own in June last year, and expanding bilateral trade and investment ties. We are currently working on further opportunities for international collaboration, especially as members of the G20 Troika with Turkey following Australia as chair in 2015. Both countries will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign in 2015.

Australia and Mexico enjoy a strong relationship based on like-minded views on major global issues such as trade liberalisation, strengthening and reform of the international financial system, climate change, transnational crime, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and arms control. We have a long history of working together in multilateral forums, such as the UN, APEC, the G20 and the WTO. The relationship is underpinned by a comprehensive framework of bilateral agreements including a bilateral Plan of Action (2011) and an MoU Formalising Political Consultations (2009). The new Mexican government aims to expand bilateral and multilateral ties in the Asia-Pacific region as a foreign policy priority. The successful completion of Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement negotiations, of which we are both parties, will accelerate the integration of Mexico’s economy into the region and potentially provide greater market access for Australian goods and services into Latin America and North America.

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