US Navy to commission new warship ‘USS Canberra’ in Australia

The littoral combat ship USS Canberra sits pierside in Mobile, Alabama, on Saturday for its christening ceremony.

The new USS Canberra will be the first American navy warship to be commissioned in an allied country, with the combat vessel set to join the US fleet.

Australian navy chief Vice Admiral Mark Hammond said July’s historic event would show the deep ties between the United States and Australia, and provide an opportunity to reflect on their shared history.

“This is a unique demonstration of respect by the US for the officers and sailors of the Royal Australian Navy,” the vice admiral said.

Members of the US Navy and USS Canberra crew will be hosted in Sydney to mark the occasion.

It is the second US ship to bear the name Canberra after former president Franklin D Roosevelt renamed a Baltimore-class heavy cruiser in the 1940s after a valiant effort from the Australian navy’s HMAS Canberra during the Battle of Savo Island in 1942.

News of the commissioning came as Trade Minister Don Farrell headed to the US to strengthen defence ties with Washington.

Senator Farrell is embarking on a four-day trip in a bid to boost economic ties, including defence technology after the nations agreed to work towards Australia procuring nuclear-powered submarines.

The American, Australian and British defence supply chains and manufacturing sectors are set to intertwine more closely as the three nations work under the AUKUS pact to build submarines.

Senator Farrell will attend Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Indo-Pacific Economic Framework meetings, where discussions will also span the transition to clean energy and a safe region amid anxiety over China.

His Chinese counterpart Wang Wentao will also be at the meetings, but a sideline meeting has not been locked in.

It comes weeks after Senator Farrell travelled to Beijing to lobby for the removal of punitive trade sanctions.

He will also meet US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo while in Detroit.

Senator Farrell said the government was committed to diversifying trade relations and “delivering broader and stronger trade agreements for the benefit of Australian businesses and workers”.

Negotiations also continue on Australian access to vital defence technology in the context of strong US arms export laws.

Canada is carved out of those laws, an exception Australia is also seeking in a bid to cut red tape and streamline co-operation.

The minister’s visit comes against the backdrop of tense negotiations between President Joe Biden and Congress over raising the US debt ceiling to avoid a potentially catastrophic default.

Markets are already dragging due to the uncertainty over negotiations but a default could send destructive ripples through the global economy and further spook investors.

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