With bilateral ties becoming more important than ever in the wake of serious worldwide volatility, the news that the US has confirmed its new ambassador to Australia, Arthur Culvahouse, received a positive reception in many quarters.
This is because the Tennessee lawyer is known for his diplomatic abilities, which sets him apart from US President Donald Trump, who has defined his term in office to date by not being afraid to go his own way and risk incurring the wrath of those whom he disagrees with.
Analysts had thought that the pick for the new ambassador would be similar to Trump, but many seem happy with Culvahouse and believe that he will continue to develop ties between Australia and the US.
The Australian ambassador post had been vacant since the departure of John Berry two years ago, a move that many felt spoke volumes at the time. As Culvahouse has been able to garner plenty of bipartisan support throughout the decades that he has worked in Washington, DC, he has developed a reputation for being both astute and reliable in the way that he goes about working on diplomatic relations.
His appointment comes at a helpful time for both the US and Australia. The two countries have realized that a lack of cooperation could easily see them cede ground to China, which has been increasing its level of influence in the Asia Pacific region. Australia has also been asserting some dominance from its jurisdiction by strengthening military ties with various Pacific Island nations as it tries to stymie China’s growing reach.
On the other hand, the US has chosen to step back from its global role, and Trump has been sending Vice President Mike Pence to diplomatic talks such as APEC. Trump also pulled his country out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which went ahead without the US.
Chairing the corporate law firm O’Melveny & Meyers, which has several offices in Asian cities, Culvahouse has a sound knowledge and foundation of the Asia Pacific region and is no stranger to Australia’s needs on this front. He recently described the relationship between the US and Australia as ‘strategically critical’ and indicated that he is open to pressing ahead with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a cooperative alliance that also includes Japan and India. Through this alliance, the four nations involved will try to gain Western support in the Asia Pacific region and create a strategy that counters Chinese efforts.
Meanwhile, ambassadors for Australia and Iran have been meeting to discuss improving bilateral ties. Though this move may well fly in the face of the US’ wishes due to its ongoing sanctions against Iran, the aim is to increase the speed at which cooperation can develop between Iran and Australia.
Ian Biggs, the Australian ambassador to Iran, said that there is a great deal of potential for the two countries to work together, particularly in relation to fish farming. Biggs noted that there has been ‘significant progress’ in Iran’s Hormozgan province to this end and said that Australia’s involvement has ‘high potential,’ which will likely help strengthen bilateral and diplomatic ties between the two nations. He also welcomed the growing number of Iranian students in Australia.