President Joe Biden is gearing up for Australia’s state visit, a big occasion considering it’s only the fourth such visit during his administration. This is quite the turnaround from last year, when plans to travel Down Under were scrapped due to a debt ceiling crisis. However, the U.S.-Australia alliance is facing some complications due to the ongoing House Republican speakership race and the resulting congressional dysfunction. This is not good news for President Biden, who is looking to solidify the U.S.-Australia alliance, especially in regards to their shared foreign policy goals concerning China and the Indo-Pacific region.
President Joe Biden is rolling out the diplomatic red carpet for Australia's state visit after unceremoniously scrapping plans to travel Down Under during last spring's debt ceiling crisis.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) October 24, 2023
One interesting aspect of this state visit is the emphasis on clean energy and climate change. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, from the liberal Labor Party, has added these issues as the “third pillar” of the U.S.-Australia alliance, alongside defense and economic cooperation. This aligns well with Biden’s own focus on climate change, but it might raise some eyebrows among conservatives who are skeptical of the impact of clean energy policies. Nevertheless, this visit seems to be aimed at strengthening the alliance in various areas, from defense to innovation and job creation.
It’s worth noting that Australia has been gaining strategic importance in American thinking and defense planning, given the growing challenge of Chinese naval power. This will likely be a topic of discussion between Biden and Albanese, as both countries have different assessments of the Chinese threat. While Biden has been busy handling immediate crises such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the conflict between Israel and Hamas, he seems determined to prioritize long-term priorities in the Indo-Pacific region.
However, there are some sticking points that could complicate the visit. Australia has questions about their nuclear-powered submarine building deal with the U.S. and the U.K., known as AUKUS, and Congress’s delay in considering related technology transfer legislation. Additionally, concerns about Australian military readiness and their policy on Taiwan have also come up. These issues will need to be addressed, but the main hurdle seems to be Congress, especially with the speakerless House.
Overall, this state visit is an opportunity for President Biden to showcase his commitment to the U.S.-Australia alliance and forge closer ties with Prime Minister Albanese. Both leaders will have a full agenda to discuss, from critical minerals and defense procurement to Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands. It remains to be seen how much progress can be made, particularly with the political challenges in Congress. Let’s hope that this visit can bring about real, concrete results for the benefit of both countries and their shared interests in the Indo-Pacific region.