For the Darwin deployment, a US Senate committee said in April that it would cost US$1.6 billion to build lodgings for the US Marines, but the Australian government last month called for only a first-stage A$12 million (US$11.3 million) tender to construct new quarters at existing Australian barracks for about 350 people.
The economic leg of the pivot, negotiations for the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), has grown to 12 nations. However, the complex three-year-old talks, which seek unprecedented access to domestic markets, are facing resistance in many countries and are unlikely to completed soon.
A final deal would have to be approved by the US Congress, raising the prospect of domestic politics again obstructing Asia ties.
“Even if the administration could push through some agreement on the TPP, it’s very unlikely there is going to be legislative success getting that through based on the acrimony that exists,” Baker said. “On the commercial side [of the pivot], there seems to be more rhetoric than action.”