Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made his first visit to Washington on Tuesday since assuming office in September, giving him and President Obama a chance to confer on how best to strengthen trade ties in the Asia-Pacific region and discuss the international campaign against the Islamic State terrorist organization.
Turnbull, who came to power after a Liberal Party victory, is more conservative than Obama but has demonstrated a willingness to cooperate with the U.S. administration on issues including the use of military force abroad as well as climate change.
Speaking to reporters, Obama noted that Australia ranks as “the largest contributor of troops on the ground . . . after the United States” in the fight against the Islamic State. Turnbull visited Iraq and Afghanistan shortly before coming to the United States.
“And those are just two places where we see the value of Australia’s armed forces and the remarkable contribution that they have made and the sacrifices that they make consistently,” the president said.
Obama said the two leaders planned to discuss during a working lunch how “we can strengthen our cooperation, both in Syria and Iraq, the state of affairs in Afghanistan, but also countering violent extremism globally. And Australia will be a very important partner in that process.”
Turnbull recounted touring Baghdad and Kabul in recent days, meeting with military personnel from his country and also with many from the United States.
“And I’ve learned firsthand from our people and yours and, indeed, from the government of Iraq, from its prime minister, how Australians and Americans working together were able to support the Iraqi security forces in the retaking of Ramadi,” he said, “which has been an absolute adrenaline shot of confidence for that government — a very, very significant result.”
The visit did not yield any major policy initiatives, but the leaders vowed to enhance their collaboration on several fronts, including cybersecurity and the implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade accord encompassing a dozen Pacific Rim nations.
“And can I say, as I’ve just said to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, encouraging them to encourage their congressmen and senators to support it, that the TPP is much more than a trade deal,” Turnbull said. “The prosperity of the world, the security of the world has been founded on the peace and order in the Asia-Pacific, which has been underwritten by the United States and its allies, including Australia.”
Turnbull added that he had discussed with U.S. intelligence officials how to counter Islamist extremists online. “Archaic and barbaric though they may be, their use, regrettably, of the Internet is very sophisticated,” he said.