Abbott, Obama meeting a serious affair

Barack Obama didn’t let a thing like a war in Iraq get in the way of his meeting with Tony Abbott.


It says a lot about the strength of the US-Australia relationship that the meeting between the US president and Australian prime minister still went ahead at the White House on Thursday.

Behind the scenes, Obama’s national security advisers were frantically coming up with a strategy to deal with key Iraqi cities such as Mosul falling to jihadists, who also had Baghdad in their sights.

In the Oval Office, Obama and Abbott were swapping stories about surfing as Abbott handed over an Air Force One-styled surfboard and a pair of RM Williams boots as gifts.

Then they got down to business.

Abbott came with the message that he would continue the tradition of his mentor John Howard and be an “utterly dependable ally” of the US.

They agreed to keep progressing the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a 12-nation free-trade zone for the Asia-Pacific – and use November’s G20 summit in Brisbane to encourage private sector-driven growth.

Obama even offered an olive branch on the issue of climate change.

He told Abbott he accepted that the prime minister had an electoral mandate to get rid of the carbon tax.

Abbott reassured the president he was committed to delivering Australia’s emission cut target of five per cent by 2020.

The means, he said, were less important than the end result.

Defence dominated much of the talks. The US is looking to boost its military presence in the region and call on Australia to help build a new coalition of well-trained and ready allies should Asia-Pacific nations fail or humanitarian crises arise.

To help this along, a Force Posture Agreement was signed to allow the US to have a sustained military presence – that is, more ships, aircraft and marines – in Australia over the next 25 years.

Abbott brought a businesslike approach to the meeting, which Obama appreciated given the seriousness of the times.

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