Trinicenter.comInternational Opinions

Beware Mad Max world of US

October 16, 2003,

United States foreign policy would lead Australia into a "Mad Max world" where the US would shield itself behind missiles, the former prime minister, Paul Keating, said yesterday.

He criticised the US policy of pre-emptive strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he said was giving other countries the signal to walk away from multilateral agreements and treaties.

He said small nations like Australia had a vested interest in a rule-based system around multilateral agreements.

"There is every chance that the American policy will lead us into a Mad Max world, while the US seeks to cocoon itself behind a screen of national missile defence," Mr Keating told the 2003 CPA Australia congress in Melbourne.

He also warned against sole reliance on the US for security and trade. It was not a "smart policy" because China would soon eclipse the US as a superpower.

"China is a phenomenon and it's in our backyard and it is one of the reasons why we should look long and hard at free trade agreements with the United States. Back-lane, backdoor agreements never work in trade. They are always for the stronger party," he said.

The world economy was entering the third and final phase of an economic wave, which would be much weaker than the second phase between 1992 and 2000.

China would be the centre of the next wave of growth, driven by domestic demand and built on small to medium enterprises.

"What is happening in China is without precedence in world history. Never before have we seen a billion-and-a-quarter people lifting themselves out at such a pace.

"While the 20th century was the century of the Americans, the chances are the 21st century will be the century of Asia and we will see for the first time an eclipse of American economic power."

While the American alliance remained important to Australia, "looking wistfully for US protection" was leaving us vulnerable in our own region, he said.

The former prime minister said he always believed Australia should embrace its own identity and find security within Asia.

"We [should] maintain our alliance structure with the US, but essentially make our own luck. We should go to these places not as some kind of vicar of empire, or deputy of the United States, or borrowing the monarchy of another country, rather as a nation confident in ourselves...

"And that's not falling in love with every American administration. It's about fundamentally having a number of relationships at once.

"It's a bit promiscuous, I know."

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