Scott Morrison has arrived in the United States ready to celebrate the centenary of the alliance between the two nations.
The red carpet was rolled out at the U.S. military’s Joint Base Andrews for the prime minister’s arrival at 8:15 a.m. Friday AEST.
He and wife Jenny were greeted by U.S. Chief of Protocol Cam Henderson and an Air Force guard of honour as the Air Force band played the national anthems, Advance Australia Fair and the Star-Spangled Banner.
“There are no two anthems that you’ll hear anywhere in the world when played together that talk about freedom and liberty and all the things we hold dear as Australians,” Morrison told reporters.
He was also greeted by Australia’s ambassador to the U.S. Joe Hockey, Washington’s man in Canberra Arthur Culvahouse, and a small group of people waving Australian flags.
Morrison will have a packed day on Friday in the United States with top-level meetings at the White House, starting with a one-on-one with U.S. President Donald Trump before being joined by most of the U.S. cabinet.
It’s anticipated the topics of conversation will include Australia’s plans to join the United States and UK in freedom of navigation exercises in the Strait of Hormuz near Iran and ongoing trade tensions between the United States and China.
A senior Trump administration official describes Australia as “an absolutely essential partner” in Trump’s “free and open Indo-Pacific vision.”
“This visit is designed to highlight some of that cooperation,” the official said.
“Australia has been a tremendous partner for us as it relates to Iran’s nuclear program and toward some of the challenges we face with Iran.”
Morrison is also keen to underscore Australia’s role as a reliable ally who pulls its weight.
“Americans know they have no better ally—no better friend—than Australia. At the heart of our deep and abiding friendship are the values and beliefs that knit our two countries together,” he said ahead of his arrival.
On the ground, Morrison referred to the U.S.-Australia alliance, noting he had been advised years ago that the best way to celebrate anniversaries was not by marking the years but by investing in and tending relationships.
“There are many larger, I suppose, more powerful friends that America has, but they know that they do not have a more sure and steadfast friend than Australia,” he said.
The visit will include the signing of a memorandum of understanding on Australia’s assistance in the U.S. mission to return to the moon and a joint plan on rare earth materials and other critical minerals.
“We are going to have some announcements on a MOU between NASA and the Australian Space Agency on returning to the moon by 2024 and to explore new areas of mutual interest in things like automation and robotics,” the official said.
A plan will also be announced on improving the “security and supply of rare earths in a way that is mutually beneficial to both countries.”
On Friday night, Trump will honour the Morrisons at a state dinner, just the second he has hosted for a foreign leader.