Barack Obama was re-elected U.S. President for a second term on 6 November 2012. The Congressional elections, which took place simultaneously, did not bring about any power shifts: the Democratic Party continues to hold the majority in the Senate while the House of Representatives is under the control of the Republican Party. On the domestic front, ongoing issues of political debate include the public debt and the budget deficit, economic growth and job creation as well as immigration and health care (“Obamacare”). Political polarization has aggravated compromise immensely. Current foreign policy issues include the end of the US mission in Afghanistan, the pivot to Asia, the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa as well as the developments in Eastern Europe (Ukraine). In the framework of transatlantic cooperation, which is essential for jointly mastering the global challenges for both Europe and the U.S., negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) started in July 2013. The TTIP and the crisis in the Ukraine were the most important issues discussed at the EU-U.S. Summit on 26 March 2014.
Bilateral Relations between Austria and the United States
Diplomatic relations between Austria and the United States date back to the year 1838. The bilateral relations are excellent. Austria and the United States cooperate on many important foreign policy issues, in particular in the multilateral field such as the promotion of democracy and human rights, as well as disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. A regular exchange of views takes place regarding the developments in the West Balkans and the possibility of dialogue with the Islamic world. The Austrian expertise in peacekeeping missions (in the framework of the United Nations and the EU) is highly appreciated by the United States. Austria and the United States also cooperate in consular and judicial areas, e.g. joint counter-terrorism efforts.
Austria’s numerous efforts in the realm of compensation for victims of N.S. persecution, including forced labor and seizure of private property on the territory of present-day Austria, have been and still are received very positively and are supported actively by the U.S. government.
To strengthen the “people-to-people” contacts, up to 1,000 scholarships for Austrian and U.S. students and apprentices are made available through the “European Recovery Program” (ERP Fund) between 2007 and 2017 as part of an Austrian-U.S. student exchange program. In addition, the “George C. Marshall Visitors Program” takes place since 2007. The focus of this program is to invite U.S. experts to travel to Austria to inform them about various topics such as environmental issues, renewable energy and infrastructure.
In addition to the Embassy of Austria in Washington, D.C., there are two Consulates-General (in New York and Los Angeles) and 27 Honorary Consulates in the United States.
Cultural Relations between Austria and the United States
A vibrant and dynamic cultural exchange takes place between Austria and the United States. Austrian art and artists are permanent guests at some of the most important cultural institutions in the United States. The main interest lies in the interpretation of classical music as well as in fine arts. Outside major US institutions, the Cultural Fora in New York and Washington, D.C. are the most important centers for representation of Austrian culture, especially with a modern and contemporary focus.
Austrian Public Diplomacy in the United States
Austria constantly strives to expand its public diplomacy efforts and its cooperation with the US media. Through the print publication Austrian Information (established in 1948), the online-newsletter Austrian Dispatch Monthly and the blog Jewish News from Austria, all of which are published by the Embassy of Austria in Washington, the U.S. audience receives regular updates and information about Austria.
The “Office of Science and Technology Austria” (OSTA) at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. aims at maintaining and continuously expanding the network of Austrian scientists living and working in the U.S. and Canada. Furthermore, the online-magazine bridges, published by OSTA in Washington, informs about recent developments in the field of science in Austria, the United States and Canada. In October of 2013, the low-energy house designed by Team Austria (under the leadership of the University of Technology in Vienna) won the “Solar Decathlon,” an event organized every other year by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Economic Relations between Austria and the United States
With 1,400 billion Euros the U.S. and the EU are each other’s biggest investors: approximately 50% of all U.S. foreign investments are made in Europe. In 2013, the EU’s exports to the U.S. amounted to 290 billion Euros and imports into the EU reached 200 billion Euros.
Ranking only behind Germany and Italy, the United States is Austria’s third most important trading partner and by far the most important overseas market. In 2013, the bilateral trade amounted to over 11 billion Euros. Austria’s exports accounted for 7 billion Euros (which equals around 5.6% of Austria’s total exports). The most important export goods include machinery, cars and appliances. Austria’s direct investments made in the U.S. amounted to 5.5 billion Euros in 2013.
Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. It has ten provinces and three federal territories and is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state, she is represented by the Governor General who is appointed for a term of five years. The current Governor General is David Johnston (since Oct. 2010). His duties are mainly of representative nature. Since 2006 the government has been led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Conservative Party), the party has an absolute majority in the House of Commons since 2011).
The priorities of Prime Minster Harper are economic growth within a balanced budget, creation of jobs and diversification of the economy. Moreover, the government’s long-term priorities include rebuilding the Canadian Forces, improving food and product safety regulations, reducing crime and asserting sovereignty in the Arctic. The Canadian foreign policy focuses on the development and strengthening of economic relationships, security policy and the promotion of democracy. While the US is still Canada’s most important trading partner, Canada also focuses its foreign policy increasingly on the Asian-Pacific and Latin American regions. The cooperation between Canada and the EU will be further enhanced by the Strategic Partnership Agreement and a comprehensive free trade agreement (CETA), the negotiations of which are in their final stages. As a consequence, the relations are expected to considerably intensify on various levels.
Bilateral Relations Austria-Canada
The relationship between Austria and Canada traditionally has been friendly. Austria and Canada share many common interests and have similar positions on global issues. On a multilateral level both states have been working closely together, especially concerning the promotion of human rights and the rule of law. The economic, cultural and “people-to-people” exchanges are manifold and extensive. In addition to the Austrian Cultural Forum in Ottawa, the Wirth Institute for Austrian and Central European Studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton also regularly presents Austrian art, culture and science. The academic ties are close and continuously enhanced. The Student Work Abroad Program (SWAP) offers young Austrians and Canadians the possibility to work in the other country for up to one year. Currently about 5.000 Austrian citizens and 70.000 “Austrians at heart” live in Canada.
In addition to the Austrian Embassy in Ottawa, there are seven Honorary Consulates (Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg) and an Austrian Trade Commission in Toronto (Advantage Austria) with a branch in Montreal.
Economic Relations Austria-Canada
Canada is an important overseas trading partner for Austria. The bilateral trade amounted to over 1,3 billion Euros. The comprehensive trade agreement between Canada and the EU (CETA) will allow Austrian companies to expand their relationships and seize new business opportunities, especially in the public procurement sector (infrastructure projects). In addition, Austria seeks to widen the share of Austrian companies at the Canadian market, especially in the fields of environmental technology, alternative energy and low energy construction.