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11 June: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

11 Jun 2021
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Morrison’s speech ahead of the G7 Plus summit, Japan-Australia Ministerial Consultations, more COVID-19 supplies delivered to India, and more.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered an address to the Perth USAsia Centre on 9 June ahead of his attendance at the G7 Plus summit in the United Kingdom. Morrison’s speech centred on five core themes: supporting open societies, open economies and our rules based order; building sovereign capacity, capability and resilience; cooperating on global challenges; enabling renewed business-led growth and development; and demonstrating that liberal democracies work. Morrison stated that, ‘We are facing heightened competition in the Indo-Pacific region … Australia stands ready to engage in dialogue with all countries on shared challenges, including China when they are ready to do so.’ He also noted that ‘Australia is on the pathway to net zero [emissions] … we will get there through technology that enables and transforms our industries, not taxes that eliminate them and the jobs and livelihoods they support.’

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton virtually attended the Ninth Japan-Australia 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations with their Japanese counterpartson 9 June. The Ministers issued a joint statement where they expressed concerns about the South China Sea and their ‘objections to China’s maritime claims and activities that are inconsistent with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.’  They also noted their shared concerns about ‘reported human rights abuses against Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang’ and ‘recent moves that weaken Hong Kong’s democratic institutions’. The Ministers also urged North Korea ‘to abide by its obligations under the UN Security Council resolutions’ and ‘to end its human rights violations and immediate resolve the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.’

On 4 June, Payne, Dutton and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja issued a joint media release on the delivery of COVID-19 supplies to India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The delivery includes an eight-tonne oxygen tank for India, and PPE donated by the Western Australian Government for Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Morrison, Payne and Seselja announced on 3 June that the Morrison Government will contribute an additional $50 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) ‘to ensure more people in our region and across the world have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.’ Australia has now committed a total of $130 million to COVAX AMC, which complements the $623 million Regional Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative which is assisting Australia’s Pacific and Southeast Asian neighbours to access and administer safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

On 9 June, Payne issued a statement on Australia’s ‘continued leadership’ on HIV/AIDS. She noted that Australia and Namibia co-facilitated the Political Declaration adopted at the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/Aids which ‘sets ambitious targets to guide the global AIDS response for the next five years.’ She further noted that Australia is also investing $11.65 million ‘to increase the availability and uptake of HIV testing and prevention services amongst key populations in the Indo-Pacific.’

Payne and Seselja noted on 8 June that the Government and the Australian Olympic Committee are working ‘in partnership’ to support over 170 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from eleven Pacific nations to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. With support from the Australian Government’s ‘PacificAus Sports’ program, Pacific teams and athletes ‘will be able to train and compete in qualification events, giving them the greatest opportunity to realise their Olympic and Paralympic dreams.’

On 4 June Minister for Trade Dan Tehan delivered a speech at the Australian Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Study Centre in Melbourne. Tehan referred to APEC as ‘an institution for troubled times’ and ‘a strong voice for economic openness and the free flow of critical medical supplies.’ He further stated that ‘it’s very much in Australia’s interests if we can get the United States to, once again, engage on the [Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership]. Greater engagement with the USA through APEC will hopefully enable us to work constructively, and with respect to our principles, with China, as well.’ Tehan also noted that ‘Australia is supportive of a practical transition to renewable energy options – like other APEC economies, we’re resolutely committed to the Paris Agreement.’

Tehan also delivered a speech at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) on 4 June to launch its 2021 National Trade Survey Report. He noted that ‘throughout the pandemic, global investment … in Australia dropped by nearly 40 per cent … we want foreign investment, we encourage foreign investment, and we understand the importance of foreign investment for innovation and job creation.’ Tehan stated that the eleventh round of trade negotiations with the European Union is currently being undertaken, and Australia is ‘looking at exploring other opportunities [for trade agreements] in the Indo-Pacific and also with more countries in Europe and Israel.’

Isabella Keith is an undergraduate student at the Australian National University studying Law and Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She is currently an intern at the AIIA National Office.

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