Australia's Foreign Economic Policy: a ‘State-Society Coalition' Approach and a Historical Overview

Discussion Papers



March 2006


This paper aims to explain the historical development of Australia's foreign economic policy by using an analytical framework called a ‘state-society coalition' approach.

This approach focuses on virtual coalitions of state and society actors that share ‘belief systems' and hold similar policy ideas, goals and preferences, as basic units (policy subsystems) of policy making. Major policy changes occur when a dominant coalition is replaced by another.

The paper argues that, in Australia, there have been three major state-society coalitions in the foreign economic policy issue area: ‘protectionists',‘trade liberalisers' and ‘optional bilateralists'. The rise and fall of these coalitions resulted in distinctive shifts of Australia's foreign economic policy in the 1980s towards unilateral and multilateral liberalisation and in the late 1990s towards bilateral trade and investment arrangements.

Keywords: Australia, foreign economic policy, state-society coalitions, belief systems, changes in dominant coalitions

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