U.S.-Australia Joint Commission Meeting on Science and Frontier Technologies Dialogue

12 Aug

Washington, DC

Today, the United States of America and Australia convened virtually for the Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) on Science and Frontier Technologies Dialogue to further strengthen cooperation between our world-class scientific communities.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Kelvin Droegemeier and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios led the American delegation, which included leaders from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy, and the National Institutes of Health. The Honorable Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, led the Australian delegation, which included leaders from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources; Department of Education, Skills and Employment; Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization; National Measurement Institute; and Geoscience Australia.

The Dialogue was convened under the authority of the Agreement Relating to Scientific and Technical Cooperation between the Government of the United States and the Government of Australia, signed in November 2016.  The inclusion of a Frontier Technologies Dialogue follows the September 2019 Leaders’ meeting between U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, during which both leaders underscored the importance of science and technology cooperation including advancing frontier technologies.

The United States and Australia have a long and productive history of partnership in areas that are shaping the future. The strong history of science and technology collaboration between the two nations, which was first formally acknowledged in a cooperation agreement signed in 1968, is reflected in vibrant relationships at the researcher-to-researcher level, growing links at institutional levels, and a range of government-to-government activities. In particular, the planned MULTIPLIER (MULTIPlying Impact Leveraging International Expertise in Research Missions) expedition between Australia and NSF will provide a valuable way to identify follow-on research activities in areas of mutual and strategic interest.

The Dialogue undertook a meaningful exchange of views related to artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information science (QIS), and oceans exploration and mapping.  Also discussed were approaches to ensure the integrity of the international research enterprise.  Participants highlighted existing and new collaboration as outcomes of the Dialogue.

The United States and Australia prioritize research and development that benefits citizens and is rooted in a shared commitment to foundational scientific values and principles. This includes freedom of inquiry, merit-based competition, accountability, integrity, openness, transparency, reciprocity, and promotes protection of intellectual property, safe and inclusive research environments, rigor and integrity in research, research security, and reducing administrative workload.

The United States and Australia underscore the importance of supporting innovation and adoption of AI that fosters public trust and confidence, and protects privacy, civil liberties, human rights, and democratic values.  Both sides have strategic approaches to further the state of the art in AI research and development, including opportunities for greater collaboration. Together, the United States and Australia further recognize the importance of leadership from democratic nations on the development of emerging technologies to advance innovation and promote applications consistent with our shared values.

To accelerate discovery in quantum information science, the United States and Australia are identifying opportunities to share resources and expertise, including between industry and government stakeholders, for strengthened bilateral cooperation. Further, both countries are exploring ways to leverage existing programs and opportunities to deepen cooperation, realize the transformative potential of QIS, and advance its positive impact on the national security and economic prosperity of both countries.

The United States and Australia continue to fight COVID-19 together and Australia has joined the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which provides COVID-19 researchers worldwide with rapid access to the world’s most powerful high performance computing resources to advance the pace of scientific discovery in the fight to stop the virus. Australia’s National Computational Infrastructure and Pawsey Super Computing Centre will partner with the consortium in advancing science and discovery and sharing knowledge.

The United States and Australia are committed to advancing ocean mapping and exploration through bilateral engagement and strong support for research partnerships with non-governmental entities. Both countries recognize the importance of mapping and exploration to support growth of the sustainable blue economy and stimulate economic recovery. The United States and Australia have current and planned ocean initiatives and are identifying opportunities for future collaboration, including opportunities for joint development and testing of innovative tools and systems (e.g., autonomous and robotic technologies, AI and machine learning, cloud computing) to better map, explore, and understand the regional ocean environment. The United States and Australia also recognize the importance of continued science-based coordination in the Pacific Ocean, including to underpin the administration and sustainable management of the marine environment with Pacific Island countries.

Upon its conclusion, the United States and Australia found that the Joint Commission Meeting on Science and Frontier Technologies Dialogue was highly productive and strengthens the already great partnership between the two nations. Both countries reaffirmed their commitment to continue close coordination on science and technology cooperation.

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AUSMIN 2020 Health Security Statement

28 Jul

The text of the following statement is released by the Governments of the United States of America and Australia regarding progress towards health security cooperation to be discussed at the 2020 Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) to be held on 28 July.

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At no other time in recent history has collaboration been more critical to prevent, prepare and respond to the collective threat posed by infectious diseases and pandemics. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governments of the United States and Australia are taking joint action to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats, including those of zoonotic (animal) origin particularly the Indo-Pacific region. COVID-19 is just one example of the rising trend of diseases caused by viruses that have jumped from animal hosts into the human population The bilateral partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) remains vital to preventing the risks of future infectious diseases outbreaks and pandemics and their devastating health, economic and social costs.

Recognising that much pivotal work remains to be done to strengthen and accelerate capacity building for health security in the Indo-Pacific, the United States and Australia remain deeply committed to transparency, accountability and collaboration in this area. This includes commitment to a One Health approach that fosters cooperation between environmental conservation and human health, animal health and plant health.

On the occasion of AUSMIN 2020, and in support of the goals of the United States Global Health Security Strategy and Australia’s Health Security Initiative for the Indo-Pacific region, our two governments reaffirm our strong partnership, and welcome strengthened cooperation throughout 2021 and beyond, by way of a joint plan of activities including:

  • Virtually co-convening a second Southeast Asia Health Security Donor Coordination Meeting in 2020;
  • Exploring opportunities to collaboratively build Indo-Pacific partner capacity in biosecurity, biosafety, and bio-surveillance to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks caused by especially dangerous pathogens, through laboratory placements for participants from the Greater Mekong Subregion in Australian research institutions, as well as joint biosafety training;
  • Working together in third party countries to improve hygiene conditions, stop the selling of high risk wildlife in ‘wet markets’, and immediately encourage the enforcement of laws addressing the sale of illegal wildlife in all markets. This includes support to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to develop a targeted risk assessment and mitigation plan for identified wet markets in Indonesia to reduce risks of zoonotic disease spillover events;
  • Exploring collaboration between the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security (CHS)’s implementing partners and the upcoming USAID Strategies to Prevent (STOP) Spillover program as well as an upcoming USAID private sector engagement program to identify and help partner governments mitigate zoonotic disease spillover risks with pandemic potential in the region, including through support for market solutions in the prevention of zoonosis and antimicrobial resistance along the livestock value chain;
  • Extending collaborative support for a three-year program to strengthen community pandemic preparedness in Indonesia through the Red Cross in Indonesia, which builds on the U.S.-supported Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3);
  • Extending the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) program to the Indo-Pacific region, particularly in Papua New Guinea;
  • Supporting the Global Field Epidemiology Roadmap and exploring ways to strengthen the secretariat role of the Task Force for Global Health, further building on a CHS-supported high-level workshop in Geneva in February 2019 that brought together key players for this task;
  • Strengthening public health emergency operations centers and conducting simulation exercises in selected partner countries including Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar;
  • Working with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to accelerate the development and distribution of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to improve access to new and under-used vaccines for the most vulnerable children and cohorts in the world’s poorest countries;
  • The Australian Defence Force (ADF) and US Indo-Pacific Command co-convening a series of webinars for counterpart agencies on Health Security in the Pacific with a focus on Pacific Island countries, and culminating in an in-person Pacific Regional Health Security Workshop in 2021;
  • The ADF and US Indo-Pacific Command co-convening Military Health Security Summit 2021 in Sydney, Australia, building on the outcomes of the successful Australia Defence Forces-USINDOPACOM co-hosted Military Health Security Summit in June 2019.

These activities will continue to expand Indo-Pacific health security engagement and capacity building and build the significant progress achieved under this bilateral multi-sectoral partnership over the last two years. We welcome in particular the focus on the Pacific where, in response to the vulnerabilities of Pacific Island countries, Australia and the United States have successfully collaborated to:

  • Co-procure, along with other partners, nearly 100,000 GeneXpert cartridges and testing machines to enable in-country COVID-19 testing;
  • Coordinate contributions to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) assisting on the ground in countries in their COVID-19 response;
  • Coordinate ventilator and oxygen supply donations to match needs;
  • Provide complementary support for the establishment of air transport and logistics services for the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway, which will assist the Pacific Islands Forum with the delivery of humanitarian and critical medical supplies, including personal protective equipment, within the region, and;
  • Coordinate support efforts through participation in regular US-Affiliated Pacific Islands teleconferences.

Australia and the United States have demonstrated their commitment to transparency and accountability in global health security over the past twelve months by:

  • Conducting regular interagency health security dialogues to share information, policy perspectives, and best practice from our respective health security investments, with the engagement of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. CDC, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).
  • Commencing staff exchanges, with Australia’s Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security (CHS) hosting a U.S. Government Science Fellow for three months in 2019 from DTRA;
  • Conducting consultations between CHS and U.S. government country teams and other in-country experts to support DFAT’s 2018 Health Security Scoping Missions in the Indo-Pacific;
  • Providing joint leadership within the Steering Group of the multilateral Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA 2024; including through Australia’s Secretariat role and rotating membership of the Steering Group from 1 January 2019 and the U.S. government’s permanent membership), supporting the GHSA 2024 health security capacity improvement target and furthering the objectives of the GHSA Action Packages for Antimicrobial Resistance, Biosecurity and Biosafety, Sustainable Financing for Preparedness, and Workforce Development;
  • Coordinating support for One Health capacity building through multilateral partners to enhance understanding of emerging zoonotic disease and antimicrobial resistance risk, and enable targeted risk-based mitigation along animal value chains and in live animal markets in the Greater Mekong sub-region;
  • Aligning U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) Oceania and Australian Defence Force (ADF) Joint Medical Command Strategies, including executing joint health workforce development activities and collaborating on a regional health security forum at the inaugural Global Health Security Conference in Sydney in June 2019;
  • Co-convening the first-ever Southeast Asia Health Security Donor Coordination Meeting in September 2019, involving the Australian government, the U.K. government, multilateral organisations and six U.S. government agencies;
  • Developing an Indo-Pacific Collaborative Engagement Plan for DTRA’s Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP) and CHS, which may extend to other agencies in the future.

The United States and Australia look forward to continuing to work together bilaterally, and regionally including in relevant regional organizations, and in international forums, to promote an Indo-Pacific region that is safe and secure from the threats posed by infectious diseases and to reduce the risks of future pandemics. There has never been a more vital time to strengthen global health security.

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