Robert Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, and Peter Navarro, the director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, were among the backers of tariffs on Australia. But other senior administration officials, who have cultivated ties to Australia, favor prioritizing other elements of the relationship.
For one thing, Australia has emerged as an important ally — perhaps the most critical one — in helping Washington constrain China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Australian officials have banned the Chinese company Huawei from the country’s online networks, and have investigated the Chinese Communist Party’s influence and interference in Australia. Washington is also relying on Canberra to compete with the Chinese for political clout in the Pacific islands.
Furthermore, a conservative party won a general election last month in an upset, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison intends to enact conservative policies. That means Washington and Canberra are growing even closer, as some American officials find more affinity with their Australian counterparts.