The Political Student Assembly, in partnership with the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences’ School of International Relations, held a conference Tuesday concerning U.S.-Australian relations and the rise of the Pacific Rim in world politics.
The event was sponsored by G’Day USA, an Australian think tank dedicated to promoting U.S.-Australia relations through fundraisers and its website. Allied with the Australian Consolate-General, G’Day USA is sponsored by the Dow Chemical Company, Chevron and the Australian Trade Commission.
Consisting of four panels and a lunch, the event attracted notable experts on Pacific Rim policy, such as Isaac Stone Fish, associate editor of Foreign Policy, and Lisa Scaffidi, Lord Mayor of Perth, the capital city of Western Australia. These panelists were chosen by Justin Bogda (Director of PSA), Christina Gray (Assistant Director of Programming for the School of International Relations) and Cate Partain, a senior majoring in international relations and an intern at the Australia Consulate-General.
“I reached out to the School of International Relations because they wanted do a partnership with PSA at some point this year,” Bogda said. “We wanted to have a large conference at USC at one point, and from there we worked with the Australia consulate to get different officials and experts on these topics.”
Partain expressed optimism in collaborating with the university.
“It’s really about giving the best experience to the people who will be in attendance,” Partain said. “At the consulate, we were very excited to work with USC, to make sure that students were aware that this is an opportunity. It’s an amazing networking event for USC students.”
These networking opportunities came during the first panel, titled “U.S. and Australian Alliance in the Asia-Pacific.” The panel featured Kim Beazly, Australian ambassador to the United States and Jeff Bleich, former U.S. ambassador to Australia.
The second panel, “Growing Regional Trade through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),” addressed Trade Promotion Authority and TPP, two trade agreements that could affect U.S.-Australia relations. The authorities on this panel, including former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor, supported the agreements.
In the third panel, “China, the U.S., and Australia,” experts discussed the new assertiveness of China within the Pacific and whether or not Australia has to choose between the U.S. and China. From the Australian perspective, presented by Robert Hill, the former Australian Defense Minister, such a decision isn’t even in the minds of Australian officials.
“Business Opportunities and Challenges of an Expanding Asian Middle Class,” the final panel, presented economic, health and political issues of the expanding middle class in Asia, with its effects on air quality in the Pacific, tourism and the film industry. Scaffidi discussed how Perth and Western Australia hold economic significance in the region.
“We’ve actually trademarked this term, ‘in the zone,’” Scaffidi said. “We recognize that Western Australia is in the same time zone as 61 percent of the world’s population, and we use that as a marketing point. We are a very strong connector for that reason. In regards to the growth of the middle class, it’s a great opportunity to our state.”
Gray felt that the event was a huge success, particularly due to USC’s ability to draw major figures such as Scaffidi.
“I think G’Day USA in partnering with USC was attracted to the School of International Relations,” Gray said. “You already have a great range of faculty and research and students who are actively involved in public diplomacy, and that focus is on international affairs. It’s a faculty base that opens itself to the idea of opening itself up as a university to other governments.”
Bogda, however, sees these events’ success as being in the hands of the students.
“[Students] have to attend. They have to tell their professors that they are interested in these kinds of events,” he said. “I’m hoping that in the future we can get more and more students to come out. If you‘re studying economics or international trade this is an opportunity to hear ambassadors speak on real-world things now.”