Abbott to press Obama for Asia-Pacific free trade deal
Australia will seek American support to wrap up talks on an Asia-Pacific free trade zone when Prime Minister Tony Abbott meets with US President Barack Obama.
Mr Abbott was due to meet with Mr Obama at the White House at noon on Thursday (0200 AEST), on the second-last leg of his North American visit.
Australian trade officials are quietly confident the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a 12-nation agreement to boost trade in the region – can be concluded by the end of 2015, given that 80 per cent of it has been agreed.
In the meeting, in which Mr Abbott will present the president with a hand-made surfboard bearing the presidential seal, he will emphasise Australia’s commitment to the alliance as well as boosting trade and investment.
The US is Australia’s number one source of investment, number one destination for investment abroad and its third largest two-way trading partner
Countries involved in the TPP represent a trading area of almost 800 million people with GDP worth over $27 trillion.
A White House spokesman said the TPP would be on the agenda, as well as Australia’s leadership of the G20, Afghanistan, and the rotation of US Marines through Darwin.
Security and stability of the Asia-Pacific, Syria, Russia’s actions in Ukraine and North Korea would also be discussed.
Mr Abbott spent his first day in Washington DC in a round of meetings made more hectic by chaos in the Republican Party.
The party was dealing with the fallout from Eric Cantor’s loss of preselection in Virginia and his stepping down as House majority leader – the second most powerful position in his party.
Mr Abbott held four meetings, the first of which was with House Speaker John Boehner who said Republicans broadly supported the TPP.
The second meeting involved senior Democratic Party leadership.
Foreign relations committee members were keen to pursue how Australia reached its free trade agreement with Japan.
A fourth meeting involved about 10 senators from both parties who were interested in China and Australia’s intelligence services.
Some of the senators expressed regret about the scandal caused by the Edward Snowden security document leaks.
It is understood he told the senators – as well as senior national security chiefs he met with later – that countries involved in the so-called “five eyes” intelligence partnership should never apologise for doing what is needed to protect allies and the national interest.
Mr Abbott also met with International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde.
The prime minister will tell a business breakfast in Washington that Australia has managed to be a good friend to China while also a strong ally of the US.