Background Notes: Australia, October 1998
Released by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
U.S. Department of State
Official Name: Commonwealth of Australia
Area: 7.7 million sq. km. (3 million sq. mi.); about the size of
the 48 continental United States.
Cities: (1998) Capital--Canberra (pop. 310,100). Other cities--
Sydney (4.0 million), Melbourne (3.5 million), Brisbane (1.5
million), Perth (1.3 million).
Terrain: Varied, but generally low-lying.
Climate: Relatively dry, ranging from temperate in the south to
tropical in the north.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Australian(s).
Population (1998): 18.7 million.
Annual growth rate: 1.3%.
Ethnic groups: European 92%, Asian 7%, Aboriginal 1%.
Religions: Anglican 22%, Roman Catholic 27%, other Christian
22%, other non-Christian 3%, No religion 17%.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 15 in all states except
Tasmania, where it is 16. Literacy--99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--6/1,000. Life expectancy--males
75 yrs, females 81 yrs.
Work force 9.2 million: Agriculture--5%. Mining, manufacturing,
and utilities--22%. Services--69%. Public administration and
Type: Democratic, federal-state system recognizing British
monarch as sovereign.
Constitution: July 9, 1900.
Independence (federation): January 1, 1901.
Branches: Head of State is the Governor General, who is
appointed by the Queen of Australia (the British Monarch).
Legislative--bicameral Parliament (76-member Senate, 148-member
House of Representatives). The House of Representatives selects
as head of government the Prime Minister, who then appoints his
cabinet. Judicial--independent judiciary.
Administrative subdivisions: Six states and two territories.
Political parties: Liberal, National, Australian Labor,
Australian Democrats. Liberal and National parties form the
Suffrage: Universal and compulsory over 18.
Central government budget (FY 1998-99): U.S. $85 billion.
Defense (est.1997-98): 1.9% of GDP or 8.2% of government budget.
Flag: On a blue field, U.K. Union Jack in the top left corner, a
large white star directly beneath symbolizing federation, and
five smaller white stars on the right half representing the
Southern Cross constellation.
GDP: (1998) $350.0 billion.
Per capita income: $20,000.
Inflation rate: 0% p.a.
Natural resources: Bauxite, coal, iron ore, copper, tin, silver,
uranium, nickel, tungsten, mineral sands, lead, zinc, diamonds,
natural gas, oil.
Agriculture (3% of GDP): Products--livestock, wheat, wool,
sugar. Arable land--9%.
Industry (31% of GDP): Types--mining, manufacturing,
transportation, and construction.
Trade: Exports--$56 billion (1997): coal, gold, wool, meat,
iron ore, wheat, alumina, aluminum, machinery and transport
equipment. Major markets--Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, U.S.
($5.5 billion), Singapore, Taiwan. Imports--$59 billion (1998):
machinery and transport equipment, computers, crude oil and
petroleum products, telecommunications equipment. Major
suppliers--U.S. ($13.7 billion), Japan, Germany, U.K., China, New
Zealand, Taiwan, and Singapore.
Australia's aboriginal inhabitants, a hunting-gathering people
generally referred to as Australoids or Aborigines, arrived about
40,000 years ago. Although their technical culture remained
static--depending on wood, bone, and stone tools and weapons--
their spiritual and social life was highly complex. Most spoke
several languages, and confederacies sometimes linked widely
scattered tribal groups. Aboriginal population density ranged
from 1 person per square mile along the coasts to 1 person per 35
square miles in the arid interior. Food procurement was usually
a matter for the nuclear family and was very demanding, since
there was little large game and they had no agriculture.
Australia may have been sighted by Portuguese sailors in 1601,
and Capt. James Cook claimed it for the United Kingdom in 1770.
At that time, the native population may have numbered 300,000 in
as many as 500 tribes speaking many different languages. The
aboriginal population currently numbers more than 300,000,
representing about 1.7% of the population. Since the end of World
War II, efforts have been made both by the government and by the
public to be more responsive to aboriginal rights and needs.
Today, tribal aborigines lead a settled traditional life in
remote areas of northern, central, and western Australia. In the
south, where most aborigines are of mixed descent, movement to
the cities is increasing.
Immigration has been essential to Australia's development since
the beginning of European settlement in 1788. For generations,
most settlers came from the British Isles, and the people of
Australia are still predominantly of British or Irish origin,
with a culture and outlook similar to those of Americans.
However, since the end of World War II, the population has more
than doubled; non-European immigration, mostly from the Middle
East, Asia, and Latin America, has increased significantly since
1960 through an extensive, planned immigration program. From
1945 through 1996, nearly 5.5 million immigrants settled in
Australia, and about 80% have remained; nearly one of every four
Australians is foreign-born. Britain and Ireland have been the
largest sources of post-war immigrants, followed by Italy,
Greece, New Zealand, and the former Yugoslavia.
The 1970s saw progressive reductions in the size of the annual
immigration program due to economic and employment conditions; in
1969-70, 185,000 persons were permitted to settle, but by 1975-76
the number had dropped to 52,700. Immigration has slowly risen
since. In 1995-96, Australia accepted more than 99,000 regular
immigrants. In addition, since 1990 about 7,500 New Zealanders
have settled in Australia each year.
Australia's refugee admissions of about 12,000 per year are in
addition to the normal immigration program. In recent years,
refugees from Indochina and the former Yugoslavia have comprised
the largest single element in Australia's refugee program.
Although Australia has scarcely more than two persons per square
kilometer, it is one of the world's most urbanized countries.
Less than 15% of the population live in rural areas.
Much of Australia's culture is derived from European roots, but
distinctive Australian features have evolved from the
environment, aboriginal culture, and the influence of Australia's
neighbors. The vigor and originality of the arts in Australia--
films, opera, music, painting, theater, dance, and crafts--are
achieving international recognition.
Australia has had a significant school of painting since the
early days of European settlement, and Australians with
international reputations include Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale,
and Arthur Boyd. Writers who have achieved world recognition
include Thomas Keneally, Colleen McCullough, Nevil Shute, Morris
West, Jill Ker Conway, and Nobel Prize winner Patrick White.
Australian movies are also well known.
Australia was uninhabited before stone-culture peoples arrived,
perhaps by boat across the waters separating the island from the
Indonesia archipelago about 40,000 years ago. Portuguese,
Spanish, Dutch, and English explorers observed the island before
1770, when Captain Cook explored the east coast and claimed it
for Great Britain (three American colonists were crew members
aboard Cook's ship, the Endeavor).
On January 26, 1788 (now celebrated as Australia Day), the First
Fleet under Capt. Arthur Phillip landed at Sydney, and formal
proclamation of the establishment of the Colony of New South
Wales followed on February 7. Many but by no means all of the
first settlers were convicts, condemned for offenses that today
would often be thought trivial. The mid-19th century saw the
beginning of government policies to emancipate convicts and
assist the immigration of free persons. The discovery of gold in
1851 led to increased population, wealth, and trade.
The six colonies that now constitute the states of the Australian
Commonwealth were established in the following order: New South
Wales, 1788; Tasmania, 1825; Western Australia, 1830; South
Australia, 1836; Victoria, 1851; and Queensland, 1859.
Settlement had preceded these dates in most cases. Discussions
between Australian and British representatives led to adoption by
the British Government of an act to constitute the Commonwealth
of Australia in 1900.
The first federal Parliament was opened at Melbourne in May 1901
by the Duke of York (later King George V). In May 1927, the seat
of government was transferred to Canberra, a planned city
designed by an American, Walter Burley Griffin. The first session
of Parliament in that city was opened by another Duke of York
(later King George VI). Australia passed the Statute of
Westminster Adoption Act on October 9, 1942, which officially
established Australia's complete autonomy in both internal and
external affairs. Its passage formalized a situation that had
existed for years. The Australia Act (1986) eliminated the last
vestiges of British legal authority.
The Commonwealth government was created with a constitution
patterned partly on the U.S. Constitution. The powers of the
Commonwealth are specifically defined in the constitution, and
the residual powers remain with the states.
Australia is an independent nation within the Commonwealth.
Queen Elizabeth II is the sovereign and since 1973 has been
officially styled "Queen of Australia." The Queen is represented
throughout Australia by a governor general and in each state by a
The federal Parliament is bicameral, consisting of a 76-member
Senate and a 148-member House of Representatives. Twelve
senators from each state and two from each territory are elected
for 6-year terms, with half elected every 3 years. The members
of the House of Representatives are allocated among the states
and territories roughly in proportion to population. In ordinary
legislation, the two chambers have coordinate powers, but all
proposals for appropriating revenue or imposing taxes must be
introduced in the House of Representatives. Under the prevailing
Westminster parliamentary system, the leader of the political
party or coalition of parties that wins a majority of the seats
in the House of Representatives is named prime minister. The
prime minister and the cabinet wield actual power and are
responsible to the Parliament, of which they must be elected
members. General elections are held at least once every 3 years;
the last general election was in October 1998.
Each state is headed by a premier, who is the leader of the party
with a majority or a working minority in the lower house of the
state legislature. Australia also has two self-governing
territories, the Australian Capital Territory (where Canberra is
located) and the Northern Territory, with political systems
similar to those of the states.
At the apex of the court system is the High Court of Australia.
It has general appellate jurisdiction over all other federal and
state courts and possesses the power of constitutional review.
Principal Government Officials
Governor General--Sir William Deane
Prime Minister--John W. Howard
Foreign Minister--Alexander Downer
Ambassador to the United States--Andrew Peacock
Ambassador to the United Nations--Penelope Wensley
Australia maintains an embassy in the United States at 1601
Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202-797-
3000), and consulates general in New York (212-408-8400), San
Francisco (415-362-6160), Honolulu (808-524-5050), Los Angeles
(310-229-4800) and Atlanta (404-880-1700).
Three political parties dominate the center of the Australian
political spectrum: the Liberal Party (LP), nominally
representing urban business-related groups; the National Party
(NP), nominally representing rural interests; and the Australian
Labor Party (ALP), nominally representing the trade unions and
liberal groups. Although embracing some leftists, the ALP
traditionally has been moderately socialist in its policies and
approaches to social issues. All political groups are tied by
tradition to domestic welfare policies, mostly enacted in the
1980's, which have kept Australia in the forefront of societies
offering extensive social welfare programs. Australia's social
welfare safety net has been reduced in recent years, however, in
response to budgetary pressures and a changing political outlook.
There is strong bipartisan sentiment on many international
issues, including Australia's commitment to its alliance with the
The Liberal Party/National Party coalition came to power in the
March 1996 election, ending 13 years of ALP government and
electing John Howard Prime Minister. Re-elected in October 1998,
the coalition now holds 80 seats (64 Liberal/16 National) in the
House of Representatives, against 68 for the ALP and 1
independent. In the Senate, the Liberal/National coalition holds
37 seats (31 Liberal/6 national), against 28 for the ALP, 7 for
the Australian Democrats, 2 for the Greens, and 2 for
independents. The new Senators take their seats on July 1, 1999.
Lacking a majority in the Senate, the Liberal/National coalition
has relied on the smaller parties and independents to enact
legislation. Howard's conservative coalition has moved quickly
to reduce Australia's government deficit and the influence of
organized labor, placing more emphasis on workplace-based
collective bargaining for wages. The Howard government also has
accelerated the pace of privatization, beginning with the
government-owned telecommunications corporation. The Howard
government has continued the foreign policy of its predecessors,
based on relations with four key countries: the United States,
Japan, China, and Indonesia. The Howard government strongly
supports U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.
The ongoing region-wide Asian financial crisis, which began in
has created uncertainty and instability in Australia's economy.
Historically, the Australian economy has consisted of export-
oriented agricultural and mining sectors coupled with a
diversified manufacturing-service sector dedicated to domestic
requirements. That pattern is changing slowly. Australia's
developed economy is dominated by its services sector (65% of
GDP), but it is the agriculture and mining sectors (8% of GDP)
that account for the bulk of goods and services exports (57% in
1997). The Australian economy and balance of payments are
strongly influenced by world prices for primary products.
Australia has immense mineral and energy resources. It is the
world's leading exporter of coal and one of the world's leading
producers and exporters of aluminum, alumina, bauxite, cobalt,
copper, industrial diamonds, gold, iron ore, lead, nickel,
silver, and uranium. In addition, abundant supplies of natural
gas, liquid petroleum gas, and uranium make Australia a net
exporter of energy products.
The manufacturing sector has been limited by Australia's small
domestic market and labor force and relatively high labor costs
fostered by strong unions. A broad-based manufacturing sector
was developed, nonetheless, partly due to an extensive range of
tariffs and other protective measures. The trade barriers that
insulated domestic industry from foreign competition are, today,
seen as having restrained the growth of industrial modernization
and productivity. Since 1984, successive Australian governments
have reduced or eliminated tariffs and sectoral-assistance
measures. More recent macroeconomic reforms have boosted
economic diversification, export orientation, and the
manufacturing industries. Exports of elaborately transformed
products are growing, and manufactures' share of total exports
has increased. However, the relative size of the manufacturing
sector has declined for several decades and in 1998 accounted for
just under 14% of GDP.
Since the Australian dollar was floated and allowed to fall
dramatically from 1984 to 1987, successive Australian governments
have begun to make the manufacturing sector more competitive with
imports and more capable of exporting overseas. Corporate taxes
have been significantly reduced. Unions have agreed to gradual
reductions in real wages. The financial sector has been
liberalized and exposed to international competition. The
national air carrier, QANTAS, and the Commonwealth Bank have been
fully privatized. The national telecommunications carrier,
Telstra, was one-third privatized in November 1997. By 1996, a
program begun in 1988 had reduced most tariffs to 5%.
Foreign investment has been vital in the development of
Australian ranching, transport, and manufacturing. The
Australian government welcomes foreign investment congenial to
the Australian community, particularly if it is for export-
oriented industries and creates employment opportunities. Some
restrictions on foreign ownership exist for the media, civil
aviation, mining, and certain kinds of real estate. In 1998,
cumulative U.S. investment in Australia--the single-most
important source of direct foreign investment in that country--
totaled more than $72 billion and accounted for 24% of total
Australia suffered a significant recession in 1990-91, followed
by rapid growth in 1992-94. Growth has slowed somewhat since,
with the Australian economy experiencing a cyclical downturn
during 1996-97. Real GDP growth is expected to reach 2.8% in
1998. Inflation, which reached 5.1% during the recovery, has now
fallen significantly; in 1997 Australia recorded the first annual
price deflation in 35 years. Unemployment continues to hover
stubbornly above 8.0%, however, despite some job creation in the
second half of 1997. The Howard government inherited a
substantial budget deficit in 1996, but has since embarked on an
ambitious fiscal consolidation program, which relies primarily on
cutting government spending. The government announced an
underlying budget surplus, which removes debt repayments and
assets from the headline balance, of $1.6 billion for FY 1998-99,
and a substantial headline budget surplus. Australia's trade
deficit fell during 1995 and 1996, but is projected to reach $3
billion in 1998. Australia's net foreign debt has averaged 30%-
40% of GDP for several decades and totaled $150 billion (39.7% of
GDP) at the end of 1997. Australia's external public debt was
$38 billion at the end of 1997. The public sector accounts for
26% of Australia's gross external debt; the remainder is the
responsibility of the private sector.
Over the long term, Australia's economic prospects generally are
bright. The successful conclusion of the GATT Uruguay Round of
trade liberalization negotiations should boost overall economic
activity, exports, and employment. In addition, the integration
of the Australian economy into the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific
region and increasing emphasis on using the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) forum to advance regional economic
liberalization should boost future growth.
Australia has been active in international affairs since World
War II. Its first major independent foreign policy action was to
conclude an agreement in 1944 with New Zealand dealing with the
security, welfare, and advancement of the people of the
independent territories of the Pacific (the ANZAC pact). After
the war, Australia played a role in the Far Eastern Commission in
Japan and supported Indonesian independence during that country's
revolt against the Dutch (1945-49). Australia was one of the
founders of both the United Nations and the South Pacific
Commission (1947), and in 1950, it proposed the Colombo Plan to
assist developing countries in Asia. In addition to contributing
to UN forces in Korea (it was the first country to announce it
would do so after the United States), Australia sent troops to
assist in putting down the communist revolt in Malaya in 1948-60
and later to combat the Indonesian-supported invasion of Sarawak
in 1963-65. Australia also sent troops to assist South
Vietnamese and U.S. forces in Vietnam and joined coalition forces
in the Persian Gulf conflict in 1991. Australia has been active
in the Australia-New Zealand-U.K. agreement and the Five-Power
Defense Arrangement--successive arrangements with Britain and New
Zealand to ensure the security of Singapore and Malaysia.
One of the drafters of the UN Charter, Australia has given firm
support to the United Nations and its specialized agencies. It
was a member of the Security Council in 1986-87, a member of the
Economic and Social Council for 1986-89, and a member of the UN
Human Rights Commission for 1994-96. Australia takes a prominent
part in many other UN activities, including peacekeeping,
disarmament negotiations, and narcotics control. Australia also
is active in meetings of the Commonwealth Regional Heads of
Government and the South Pacific Forum, and has been a leader in
the Cairns Group (countries pressing for agricultural trade
reform in the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs
and Trade (GATT) negotiations) and in the APEC forum.
Australia has devoted particular attention to relations between
developed and developing nations, with emphasis on the countries
of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)--
Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and
Brunei--and the island states of the South Pacific. Australia is
an active participant in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which
promotes regional cooperation on security issues. Australia has
a large bilateral aid program (about $1.3 billion for 1997-98,
mostly in the form of grants) under which some 60 countries
receive assistance. Papua New Guinea (PNG), a former Australian
trust territory, is the largest recipient of Australian
assistance. In 1997, Australia contributed to the IMF program
for Thailand, and assisted Indonesia and PNG with regional
ANZUS AND DEFENSE
The Australia, New Zealand, United States (ANZUS) security treaty
was concluded at San Francisco on September 1, 1951, and entered
into force on April 29, 1952. The treaty bound the signatories
to recognize that an armed attack in the Pacific area on any of
them would endanger the peace and safety of the others. It
committed them to consult in the event of a threat and, in the
event of attack, to meet the common danger in accordance with
their respective constitutional processes. The three nations
also pledged to maintain and develop individual and collective
capabilities to resist attack.
In 1985, the nature of the ANZUS alliance changed after the
Government of New Zealand refused access to its ports by nuclear-
weapons-capable and nuclear-powered ships of the U.S. Navy. The
United States suspended defense obligations to New Zealand, and
annual bilateral meetings between the U.S. Secretary of State and
the Australian Foreign Minister replaced annual meetings of the
ANZUS Council of Foreign Ministers. The first bilateral meeting
was held in Canberra in 1985. At the second, in San Francisco in
1986, the United States and Australia announced that the United
States was suspending its treaty security obligations to New
Zealand pending the restoration of port access. Subsequent
bilateral Australia-U.S. Ministerial (AUSMIN) meetings have
alternated between Australia and the United States. The 12th
AUSMIN meeting took place in Sydney in July 1998.
The U.S.-Australia alliance under the ANZUS treaty remains in
full force. Defense ministers of one or both nations often have
joined the annual ministerial meetings, which are supplemented by
consultations between the U.S. Commander in Chief Pacific and the
Australian Chief of Defense Force. There also are regular
civilian and military consultations between the two governments
at lower levels.
Unlike NATO, ANZUS has no integrated defense structure or
dedicated forces. However, in fulfillment of ANZUS obligations,
Australia and the United States conduct a variety of joint
activities. These include military exercises ranging from naval
and landing exercises at the task-group level to battalion-level
special forces training, assigning officers to each other's armed
services, and standardizing, where possible, equipment and
operational doctrine. The two countries also operate several
joint defense facilities in Australia.
The Australian Defense Force numbers about 56,600 personnel on
active duty, but projected cuts will reduce that force to 50,000
by 2000. Personnel strength is currently 25,600 in the Army,
14,300 in the Navy, and 16,700 in the Air Force. The Royal
Australian Navy's front-line fleet currently comprises 3 guided-
missile destroyers, 6 guided-missile frigates (including the
first of the new Australian-built ANZAC class), 1 destroyer
escort and 4 submarines--2 of the older Oberon-class and 2 of the
new, indigenous Collins class. Up to 6 Collins-class vessels are
to be built. The F/A-18 fighter, built in Australia under
license from the U.S. manufacturer, is the principal combat
aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force, backed by U.S.-built
F-111 strike aircraft.
The World War II experience, similarities in culture and
historical background, and shared democratic values have made
U.S. relations with Australia exceptionally strong and close.
Ties linking the two nations cover the entire spectrum of
international relations--from commercial, cultural, and
environmental contacts to political and defense cooperation.
Two-way trade totaled more than $18 billion in 1997. That same
year, over 200,000 Americans visited Australia and nearly 53,000
Traditional friendship is reinforced by the wide range of common
interests and similar views on most major international
questions. For example, both countries sent military forces to
the Persian Gulf in support of UN Security Council resolutions
relating to Iraq's occupation of Kuwait; both attach high
priority to controlling and eventually eliminating chemical
weapons, other weapons of mass destruction, and anti-personnel
landmines; and both work closely on global environmental issues
such as slowing climate change and preserving coral reefs. The
Australian Government and opposition share the view that
Australia's security depends on firm ties with the United States,
and the ANZUS treaty enjoys broad bipartisan support. Recent
Presidential visits to Australia (in 1991 and 1996) and
Australian Prime Ministerial visits to the United States (in 1995
and 1997) have underscored the strength and closeness of the
Trade issues sometimes generate bilateral friction. In recent
years, especially because of Australia's large trade deficit with
the U.S., Australians have protested what they consider U.S.
protectionist barriers against their exports of wool, meat, dairy
products, lead, zinc, uranium, and fast ferries. Australia also
opposes as "extraterritorial" U.S. sanctions legislation against
Cuba, Iran, and Libya. Australia remains concerned that U.S.
agricultural subsidies--although targeted against European
subsidies--may undercut Australian markets for grain and dairy
products in the Asia-Pacific region. For its part, the U.S. has
concerns about Australian barriers to imports of cooked chicken,
fresh salmon, and some fruits; subsidized Australian exports of
leather for automobile upholstery; changes in Australian law
governing intellectual property protection; and Australian
Government procurement practices. Both countries share a
commitment to liberalizing global trade, however. They work
together very closely in the World Trade Organization (WTO), and
both are active members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
A number of U.S. institutions conduct scientific activities in
Australia because of its geographical position, large land mass,
advanced technology, and, above all, the ready cooperation of its
government and scientists. Under an agreement concluded in 1968
and since renewed, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) maintains in Australia its largest and most
important program outside the United States, including a number
of tracking facilities vital to the U.S. space program.
Indicative of the broad-ranging U.S.-Australian cooperation on
other global issues, a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) was
concluded in 1997, enhancing already close bilateral cooperation
on legal and counternarcotics issues.
Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Genta Hawkins Holmes
Deputy Chief of Mission--W. Mark Bellamy
Economic Counselor--Curtis Stewart
Political Counselor-Stephen Engelken
Administrative Counselor-Jo Ellen Powell
Public Affairs Officer-Don Q. Washington
Defense and Air Attache and Representative of the Chairman, Joint
Chiefs of Staff and the Commander in Chief Pacific--Col. Charles
Agricultural Counselor--James A. Truran
Senior Commercial Officer--Barry Friedman (resident in Sydney)
The U.S. Embassy in Australia is located at Moonah Place,
Yarralumla, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2600 (tel.
(02) 6-270-5000; fax 6-270-5970). Consulates General are in
Sydney (tel. 2-9373-9200; fax 2-9373-9107), Melbourne (tel. 3-
9526-5900; fax 3-9510-4646), and Perth (tel. 9-231-9400; fax. 9-
For information on foreign economic trends, commercial
development, production, trade regulations, and tariff rates,
contact the International Trade Administration, U.S. Department
of Commerce, Washington, DC 20230. This information also is
available from any Commerce Department district office.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program
provides Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel
Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that
Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Consular Information
Sheets exist for all countries and include information on
immigration practices, currency regulations, health conditions,
areas of instability, crime and security, political disturbances,
and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the country. Public
Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information
quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term
conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security
of American travelers. Free copies of this information are
available by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at
202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system: 202-647-3000.
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets also are
available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:
http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board
(CABB). To access CABB, dial the modem number: 301-946-4400 (it
will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications
program to N-8-1(no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal
emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the password is info.
(Note: Lower case is required). The CABB also carries
international security information from the Overseas Security
Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication series, which
contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe
trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954,
Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may
be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at
(202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and
holidays, call 202-647-4000.
Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the
24-hour, 7-day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live
operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per
minute). The number is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778).
Major credit card users (for a flat rate of $4.95) may call
1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648).
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A
hotline at (404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health
advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and
advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and
countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for
International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington,
DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest
to travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a
country's embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this
country, see "Principal Government Officials" listing in this
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in
dangerous areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy
upon arrival in a country (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials"
listing in this publication). This may help family members
contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the
Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S.
foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes
Background Notes; Dispatch, the official magazine of U.S. foreign
policy; daily press briefings; Country Commercial Guides;
directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc.
DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at http://www.state.gov.
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual
basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information
on the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes
an array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the
present. Contact the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government
Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To
order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department
of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related
information. It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov)
and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more
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