United States of America and Canada
The elections in November 2012 brought no significant change in the distribution of political power among Democrats and Republicans. President Obama defeated his contender Mitt Romney and the Democrats gained two seats in the Senate, while the House of Representatives stayed under Republican control. On-going political debates cover development of public debt, the budget deficit and its reduction, economic growth and unemployment as well as immigration and gun control.
Recently Senator John Kerry was confirmed as the new Secretary of State. Current foreign policy issues are the departure of Afghanistan in 2014, the continuing increased focus on the Asia and Pacific region. Another focal point is the aftermath of the “Arabic Spring” and its consequences on the United States. These major issues have also called for more transatlantic cooperation between the United States and its European partners in order to face these challenges. Part of this increased cooperation is the commitment of both sides to start negotiations on an investment and trade agreement in 2013.
Bilateral relations between Austrian and the USA
The scope of cooperation between Austria and the US in addressing important foreign policy issues is traditionally very broad, ranging from the fight against terrorism to the promotion of democracy and encompassing a regular exchange of views regarding the Balkans and possibilities for dialogue with the Islamic world. The Balkans, Afghanistan and the Middle East (by way of Austria’s participation in peacekeeping operations) are all areas in which efforts aimed at stabilization are joined.
Austria’s efforts with regard to compensation of victims of Nazi persecution, including seizure of property and forced labour on the territory of present-day Austria, have been favourably acknowledged by the US government and actively supported in view of the importance of legal certainty for the Republic of Austria.
2013 commemorates 175 Years of U.S.-Austrian Diplomatic Relations. In honour of this occasion, a gala event was held at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna. Both countries acknowledged their continued interest in a strong relationship that promotes a peaceful, safe and prosperous world for future generations.
On the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the „Marshall Plan“ in 2007, a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the support of Austrian-American student exchange programmes financed by the “European Recovery Program” (ERP) Fund, was signed. Through this programme up to 1000 scholarships are intended to be assigned to Austrian and American students over the next 10 years. Austria also set up a special Visitor Programme named after George C. Marshall which strives to bring US- experts and decision-makers to Austria on an annual basis. Highly successful Visitor Programmes to date focussed on topics related to environmental technology and automotive engineering.
Apart from the Austrian Embassy in Washington, Austria maintains three Consulates General (New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago) and 28 Honorary Consulates in the US.
Cultural relations between Austria and the USA
Cultural exchange between Austria and the US is very dynamic. Austrian art and artists are showcased in many US cultural institutions, with a special focus on classical music and the fine arts. Apart from that, the Austrian Cultural Fora in Washington and New York continuously organize exhibitions of various aspects of Austrian culture, in particular contemporary and modern art.
Public relations in the USA
Austria constantly aims to increase its public relations activities and to extend the scope of cooperation with the US media. Moreover, the Austrian Embassy publishes the journal Austrian Information as well (established 60 years ago) and the online newsletters Jewish News from Austria and Austrian Dispatch in order to provide the US public with news from Austria.
The Office of Science and Technology (OST) at the Austrian Embassy aims at promoting a network of Austrian scientists based in the US and Canada. Its goal is to establish a network among the scientific community by "building bridges of knowledge and expertise between Austria and North America". The online magazine "bridges" reports on current developments in Austrian science policy and prides itself on having more than 6600 subscribers worldwide. "bridges" is read by more than 20.000 persons every month. A podcast version is available online.
Economic relations between Austria and the USA
The United States is among Austria’s most important trade partners after Germany and Italy, and by far the most important overseas market. Approximately 5.1% of Austrian exports are destined for the U.S. market. Bilateral trade ranges around € 11 billion. Machines, vehicles and equipment range amongst Austria’s most important export goods. In the last years there has also been an increased investment of Austrian companies in the United States.
The European and U.S. trade flows’ total around €450 billion in imports and exports. The European Union is also the largest foreign investor in the United States, with an investment volume of € 750 billion. On the other hand, 50% of all US foreign investments are placed in Europe. €1 billion worth of goods are exchanged every day between Europe and the USA.
Canada’s foreign policy is heavily oriented towards multilateral cooperation with the country actively engaged in international organizations such as the UN, NATO, G7/G8 and OSCE. While relations with the US constitute a basic cornerstone of its bilateral relations, Canada has extended its outreach to Asia and Latin America (China, India, Brazil) Close cooperation with the EU takes place within the institutionalized dialogue and deals with a wide range of topics including crisis management, international security, climate change and trade.
Canada is a federally organised state (“Confederation”) with ten provinces and three federal territories. It is a member of the British Commonwealth; Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State. Queen Elizabeth II is represented by the Governor General who is appointed for a five-year-term. David Lloyd Johnston is the current Governor General of Canada, the 28th since Canadian Confederation.
Bilateral relations between Austria and Canada
Traditionally Austria enjoys very friendly relations with Canada and on many topics the two countries can be considered like-minded. Bilateral relations benefit from both countries’ focus on multilateral and global issues. Austria and Canada are both actively involved in efforts aimed at the strengthening of multilateral organisations. A further commonality is to be found in the joint membership of the "Human Security Network", a forum with particular emphasis on human rights and humanitarian protection. The voting patterns of both countries in the UN General Assembly are identical in 96% of all cases. Convergent interests are also to be found in all areas concerning children, protection of civilians in armed conflict, elimination of the illegal trade in small arms and light weapons, destruction of anti-personnel mines, etc.
Apart from the Austrian Embassy in Ottawa, Austria maintains seven Honorary Consulates (Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg) and two commercial sections in Toronto and Montreal.
Throughout recent history, Canada has been an important destination for Austrian emigrations. Particularly as a result of World War II and in the immediate post-war years, many Austrians found a new home in Canada. There are around 3.000 Austrian passport holders currently residing in Canada and another 30.000 persons of Austrian parentage. In 2002, a Student Work Exchange Program (SWAP) was established allowing young Austrians and Canadians to work abroad for up to one year.
Cultural exchange between Austria and Canada takes place through the Austrian Cultural Forum in Ottawa or the Wirth Institute for Austrian and Central European Studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Both institutions are committed to a continuous presentation of Austrian art, culture and science.
Economic relations between Austria and Canada
Canada is the fifth most important overseas market for Austria. While the exchanges of trade between the two countries are intense, matching views on economic and trade policies also allow for common efforts to establish a strong multilateral economic system. In this sense, Austria and Canada share a commitment to the WTO, development aid and global sustainability.
Both the EU and Canada have an interest in expanding their trade and investment relations. Austria welcomes the current negotiations towards a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada. Such a treaty will provide new business opportunities for Austrian exporters. This is particularly relevant in the area of public procurement, an important component of the advanced economic treaty. Furthermore, Austria aims for increased access for Austrian companies to the Canadian market in the fields of environmental technology, alternative energy and energy-saving manufacturing.