The President aimed to make his White House look “like America does.” His nominations were composed of 48% women and half were people of color. Among this record-breaking diversity, Australia saw the return of a few familiar faces. With many friends in Washington, a few Cabinet members have already spoken about the countries’ great alliance, and the continued collaboration to come. Here is who made the cut and how they will impact our Region.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (Confirmed)
Former US Deputy National Security Advisor and Deputy US Secretary of State Bliknken is very aware of the importance in the Indo Pacific region with his role in strengthening America’s alliances here highlighted by President Biden. His foreign policy on the matter of China seems to reverberate that of Australia’s. He has stated the key to dealing with China is building and strengthening alliances in this region. He stands with multilateral agreements and plans to work with other countries including China on issues such as climate change and health emergencies or preventing the spread of deadly weapons. The Australian Foreign minister Marise Payne and Blinken spoke recently and discussed mutual global foreign policy priorities promoting human rights, rule of law, and regional security as well as tackling shared challenges. Their relationship extends back to the Obama administration giving them a familiar transition for working well together.
Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen (Confirmed)
As Former Federal Reserve Chair and former Chief White House economist Janet Yellen is known for detailed research and not making rash decisions, Yellen Has already followed in suit with Biden's climate change policy by “forcefully addressing the threat of climate change” being a top priority. Yellen will be in dealings with the Australian treasurer, Josh Frydenbeg but he was not the first to speak with her. Frydenbeg has recently championed economic talks among the finance ministers from the Five Eyes countries, which also includes the UK, Canada and New Zealand. Frydenberg has argued the once-in-a-century pandemic only increases the importance of regular talks to share notes on economic recovery strategies. She is tasked with repairing the US economic situation after the pandemic and according to Biden there is “no one better suited to deal with these crises.”
Secretary of Defense Department Lloyd Austin (Confirmed)
President Biden’s historic cabinet nomination of African American Llloyd Austin for Defense Secretary is good news for Australia. Austin has already affirmed America’s commitment to the special relationship between Australia and the USA, describing it in a phone call with Australia's Defence Minister Linda Reynolds as an “unbreakable bond”. Austin is determined to make Indo-pacific regional security a priority for America, protecting Australia as an ally.
Indo-Pacific Coordinator for National Security Council Kurt Campbell (Appointed)
Kurt Campbell AO, CNZM is set to be the inaugural Coordinator of the Indo Pacific (Asia Czar), a position created by President Biden to help counter the rise of China in the region. Campbell has a unique connection to Australia in that he was awarded an Order of Australia in 2013 for strengthening Australian American bilateral relations. Campbell will be an important ally for Australia in a region that is becoming increasingly unstable. He recently acted as Chairman and CEO of the Asia Group, a strategy and advisory firm aimed at forwarded the interests of the world’s leading companies in Asia. The Australian columnist Greg Sherian recently referred to Campbell as smart, hawkish, tough, a superb operator, a deep thinker and Australia’s best friend in Washington.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan (Appointed)
President Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is likely to be a friend of Australia. In December following increasing trade tensions between Australia and China Sullivan tweeted “The Australian people have made great sacrifices to protect freedom and democracy around the world. As we have for a century, America will stand shoulder to shoulder with our ally Australia and rally fellow democracies to advance our shared security, prosperity, and values.”. Given Sullivan’s proximity to the President, these words of support should come as a reassurance to Australia that the Biden administration will stand by Australia as a regional ally.
USTR Katherine Tai (Confirmed)
Katherine Tai is a former attorney serving as the chief trade counsel for the United States House Committee on Ways and Means. Biden’s choice of Katherine Tai as U.S. trade representative is another clear indication of an unchanging anti-China policy. Biden praised the record of Tai as America’s chief trade enforcer against “unfair trade practices” undertaken by China and that this would be a key priority for the new administration. This will be very helpful to Australia as our own fight with China continues having repeatedly banning Australian exports.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for ASEAN Sung Kim (Appointed)
Incoming Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian & Pacific affairs Sung Kim enters his role with a deep connection to the Asia Pacific region. In his most recent role, Kim was US ambassador to Indonesia, given the strategic significance of Indonesia to Australia, Kim will be very aware of the economic and geopolitical issues facing the region and is expected to be a friend of Australia. Kim has also served as US ambassador to the Philippines and South Korea. With strong trade links supported by our regional and bilateral free trade agreements, this is an important relationship for Australian business into the economic community.
Georgian Senator Jon Ossoff (Elected)
Senator Jon Ossoff was recently successful in his extremely public Senate runoff election, assisting the democrats in gaining control of the senate. Ossoff has what is perhaps the closest connection of any current US Congressmen or Senator to Australia. Ossoff’s mother was born and raised in Sydney before moving to America at age 23, Ossoff himself once held Australian citizenship (now lapsed). This very close Australian connection in the senate may be helpful for Australian business and negotiation in the long term as at age 33, Ossoff is the youngest person elected to the senate in 40 years.
Secretary-General, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Mathias Cormann (Elected)
Mathias Cormann is Australia’s candidate within the final five in contemplation for Secretary-General of the OECD. The OECD is an international organisation forming policies to cultivate prosperity, equality and opportunity globally. Cormann was formerly Australia’s Minister for Finance and the Senator of Western Australia, both roles concluded in 2020. Having spent half of his life living in Europe and the other half in the Asian-pacific region, Cormann has a rare insight into the political dynamics, economic capabilities and cultures of the areas. This is a great opportunity for Australia to lead an international institution gaining bipartisan support from both Labor and Liberal. However, the Greens have lobbied against his role due to Australia’s inaction on climate change. The decision is due to be made in March of this year with only the candidates from Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Greece remaining from the 37 member countries.