Australia aims to become top 10 defense exporter
Signaling what could be the largest military buildup in the country’s peacetime history, Australia’s government announced a plan in late January 2018 to become one of the top 10 defense exporters in the world within a decade.
Australia will create a U.S. $3.1 billion fund to make loans to exporters that banks are reluctant to finance as part of its new Defense Export Strategy, The Associated Press (AP) reported. The government hopes that by establishing the fund, defense manufacturers will find new markets and increase Australia’s global share of the arms business, according to The Diplomat, an online news magazine.
Australia also will create a central defense export office and expand the roles of defense attaches in Australian embassies.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull said Australia has the resources to rank higher than 20th among arms-exporting countries. “Given the size of our defense budget, we should be a lot higher up the scale than that. So, the goal is to get into the top 10,” Turnbull said, according to AP.
Australia now only has about .3 percent of the global defense export market — about U.S. $1.6 billion per year — making it the 20th-largest arms exporter. The new export plan is ambitious, The Diplomat reported, because countries in the lower half of the top 10, including Spain, Italy, Ukraine and Israel, boast eight times more exports than Australia.
Australia said it will focus on complementary hardware for its so-called Five Eyes (FVEY) intelligence-sharing allies — Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom. It also wants to target markets in the Indo-Pacific region and the Middle East.
To keep weapons away from rogue regimes, Australia said it is putting measures in place to prevent sales in conflict zones or to countries with poor human rights records. Defense Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said Australia would focus on growing sales to its bigger markets where countries are already importing Australian-made equipment, such as the Bushmaster armored vehicle and the Nulka missile decoy. The Nulka system is a technological collaboration between Australia and the U.S. and is Australia’s largest defense export program. (Pictured: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, center, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, stand in front of a Bushmaster military vehicle at an exercise field in Funabashi, east of Tokyo, Japan.)
“We want to support the United States, the U.K., New Zealand, Canada, our European friends and allies, Japan, South Korea, et cetera, in what is a building up of the global military capability of countries like ourself who support the rules-based international order,” Pyne said. “The defense export strategy is not designed to get into markets where we don’t want to be. It’s designed to maximize the markets where we perhaps haven’t been making the most of our opportunities,” he added.