Linda Pearson

The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade tabled its report, Principles and Practice — Australian Defence Industry and Exports, in Parliament in December 2015. The report made 19 recommendations about how the Australian government should increase its support of Australian arms exports, which largely reflected the wishes of arms companies.

Most of the arms companies that made submissions to the Inquiry into Government Support for Australian Defence Industry Exports said government assistance in the promotion and facilitation of overseas arms sales should be increased.

Throughout last year, devastating conflicts raged in Iraq and Syria. The Afghan War entered its 16th year with a record number of civilians deaths, while in Yemen, a Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition continued to bomb civilian targets using British and American-made weapons.

The release of the Chilcot Report on July 6 has led to renewed calls for former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his role in starting the Iraq War.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed an agreement in September to allow sales of Australian uranium to India for the first time. Uranium sales were initially approved by then-Coalition PM John Howard in August 2007 but Howard’s successor, Kevin Rudd, reinstated the ban.

Rudd’s action was in accordance with long-standing Labor Party policy that uranium should only be sold to countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). A 2008 Lowy Institute poll found that 88% of Australians supported this policy.

In September, Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed an agreement which will allow sales of Australian uranium to India for the first time.

India has consistently refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has manufactured up to 110 nuclear warheads, but has been given a free pass to take part in international nuclear trade by virtue of its new strategic relationship with the United States.

The Australia-India deal conflicts with Australia’s obligations under the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty, as well as the NPT.

After more than 50 years in Ecuador, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) closed up shop last month. The Ecuadorian government said USAID has been asked to leave Ecuador, while a US Embassy official claimed it was USAID’s decision.

Cables from the first term of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa show how the US sought to defend the interests of US companies in Ecuador, and protect the position of foreign investors in general. Moves against the power of transnational corporations by Correa's government, first elected in 2006, were seen as attempts to increase control over the economy, which the US government views as the domain of private interests. The US Embassy in Quito therefore tried to influence Ecuadorian economic policy in conjunction with allies from other embassies and from within the private sector.

Cables sent from the US Embassy in Quito during Rafael Correa’s first three years as president document rising tensions between Ecuador and the US.

Correa’s government, first elected in 2006, increasingly rejected US hegemony and asserted control over Ecuador’s economic and political development.

The cables highlight the embassy’s preoccupation with Ecuador’s “difficult investment climate”, with many reports attempting to assess and predict Correa’s economic policies.

In November 2006, leftist candidate Rafael Correa won the second round of the Ecuadorian presidential election with 57% of the vote, compare with his conservative opponent, Alvaro Noboa, who won 43%.

Despite the US’s failure to undermine Correa’s candidacy, as shown by diplomatic cables published by WIkiLeaks, further US cables suggest the US Embassy in Quito believed it could hold sway over the new government.

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