Lamb Chop Diplomacy

Australia is learning to live with an apparently diminished standing in its long alliance with the United States. Cameron Forbes in the centrist daily Australian of Sydney observes that Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who could not convince President Bill Clinton to abandon tariffs on Australia's $100-million lamb trade with the United States during his Washington visit in July, is at a disadvantage compared to visiting leaders such as South Korea's President Kim Dae Jung or Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. "The Clinton administration's agenda is dominated by domestic policy concerns, and when it looks beyond its national boundaries, its attention is focused on Europe, Russia, and China," Forbes writes. "The U.S. alliance is central to Australia's foreign policy"-but not vice versa.

Writing in Sydney's centrist weekly Sun-Herald, Peter Robinson sees in Australia's reduced status proof that "the evolving U.S. perception of its privileges as the world's undisputed dominant power is becoming clearer."

In this context, efforts by Howard to transform Sydney into a major financial center "make a lot of sense. Australia is no longer of importance to the U.S. militarily-but it could develop importance as a major financial hub in this changing world of ruthless self-interest and instant communications."