FOREIGN Minister Julie Bishop yesterday sought to calm fears Australians will face travel restrictions to the United States after the government’s first high level engagement with the Trump administration.
Describing a “warm and engaging discussion” over the phone with US Vice President Mike Pence, Ms Bishop also tried to downplay concerns about the future of Australia’s refugee resettlement deal with the US.
She also dismissed speculation Donald Trump’s threat to impose a 20 per cent tax on all Mexican imports — to pay for a wall between the two countries — would be extended to other countries.
“There certainly has been no indication at all that the administration is looking to renegotiate the Australia — United States Free Trade Agreement,” Ms Bishop said.
“It has benefited both nations enormously.”
The phone call with Mr Pence was the first official dialogue with the new US government and came as Ms Bishop spoke at a G’Day USA event in Los Angeles.
Currently Australia is one of 39 countries whose citizens able to apply for an electronic visa to enter the US at a cost of about $20.
In an interview with ABC America Mr Trump confirmed his administration would “exclude certain countries” from accessing the US and have “extreme vetting for other countries”.
“It’s going to be very hard to come in. Right now it’s very easy to come in,” President Trump said.
“It’s going to be very, very hard.”
Before the Presidential election, President Trump suggested he would scrap the visa waiver scheme — and require would-be visitors to go through a face-to-face interview with US officials to gain entry.
Ms Bishop said she would work with the United States to “ensure Australians continue to have access to the US as Americans have access to Australia”.
“We are two very like-minded countries; in fact there are few countries that have a relationship so close as that of the United States and Australia,” Ms Bishop said.
“We will continue to work together to strengthen and broaden and deepen this very strong relationship.”
However she did acknowledge that Mr Trump appeared to be pushing ahead with his pre-election policies such as the Mexico wall.
“The President is giving support to the policies he took to the last election,” said Ms Bishop, when asked about the controversial proposal.
“We will be watching the policies very closely as they’re announced and we will continue to ensure that we act in Australia’s national interest when it comes to Australia’s relationship with the United States.”
In the last year, more than a million Australians travelled to the US, and close to 700,000 Americans visited Down Under.
Ms Bishop will remain in Los Angeles for Qantas’ opening of an A380 hangar at Los Angeles Airport today, and the G’Day USA gala dinner on Sunday.
She said the tourism and trade event was the “largest public diplomacy initiative undertaken by any nation in the United States”.
“It’s an opportunity to not only showcase the best of Australia to one of the most remarkable marketplaces in the world, but also an opportunity to strengthen and broaden and deepen this already strong relationship.”