This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese welcomes Sogavare to Canberra, Bali Bombings 20th anniversary commemoration events, Wong travels to Marshall Islands and Nauru, Wong hosts Indian counterpart Jaishankar, and more.
On 6 October, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese welcomed Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to Canberra for bilateral talks. Albanese noted that the bilateral relationship is “incredibly important” and that “as members of the Pacific Family, we are committed to working together to face our shared challenges and achieve our shared goals, including on climate change.” The leaders also discussed their “shared aspirations for a peaceful, prosperous and resilient Pacific”, as well as “ongoing economic cooperation, including market access, Pacific labour mobility, scholarships and the Pacific Engagement Visa.”
Albanese, alongside Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong and Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts, acknowledged the 20th anniversary of the 2002 Bali bombings, which resulted in the loss of 202 lives, including 88 Australians. Albanese attended a service at Coogee in Sydney, while Wong hosted a memorial service at Parliament House, and Watts attended a commemorative ceremony at Australia’s Consulate-General in Bali.
On 12 October, Wong announced she would be travelling to the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Nauru “to further strengthen Australia’s ties with our Pacific family.” While in the Marshall Islands, Wong will officially open the Australian embassy, which commenced operations last year. She will also put to air the first Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio programme on the Islands’ national broadcaster in six years. Wong will also meet with President David Kabua, Foreign Minister Kitlang Kabua, and other Members of Parliament, as well as community leaders, “to discuss climate action and enhance our security, environmental, cultural and economic partnerships.” In Nauru, Wong will meet with President Russ Kun and to launch a new partnership with Nauru and the Australian Football League, “to support young athletes in Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.”
Wong hosted India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr S Jaishankar, to Australia on 10 October for the annual Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue. During the Dialogue, the Ministers “discussed accelerating and deepening economic ties, including through our Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement”, as well as “strengthening our people to people ties and education links, reinforcing our defence and security cooperation and enhancing our climate change and new clean energy engagement, including through the Quad.” They also “agreed to expand our diplomatic footprints” and noted that Australia recommitted to opening a Consulate-General in Bengaluru, and that India is planning an additional consulate in Australia.
On 10 October, Wong met with Lao Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Saleumxay Kommasith in Canberra. They had “warm and productive discussions about how we can deepen the partnership between our two countries”. Wong noted that she “reiterated Australia’s support as Laos prepares for its ASEAN Chair Year in 2024” and “discussed our shared commitment to ASEAN centrality, and our strategic interest in maintaining a region which is peaceful, stable, prosperous, and where sovereignty is respected.” Wong and Saleumxay planted a tree together in the Australian Botanic Gardens “as an enduring symbol of the growth in our countries’ friendship.”
Wong welcomed Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Foreign Minister, Dr Bisera Turković, to Canberra on 11 October. The Foreign Ministers discussed “Russia’s unprovoked, illegal and immoral war on Ukraine, and Mr Putin’s dangerous escalations”, and also renewed their commitment to “greater cooperation between our countries and through the Bosnian diaspora community in Australia.” Wong noted that Australia remains “a strong supporter of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and that the bilateral relationship “is strengthened by our people-to-people ties and longstanding support.”
On 11 October, Minister for Trade Don Farrell co-chaired the fourth Japan-Australia Ministerial Economic Dialogue with his Japanese counterpart, Nishimura Yasutoshi, in Tokyo. In a joint statement, the Ministers stated that the meeting “reaffirmed the fundamental importance of the Special Strategic Partnership between Japan and Australia, which is underpinned by shared values, economic complementarity, and enduring people to people links.” They discussed their “commitment to an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific”, “regional and multilateral cooperation on the economic transformation to net zero”, and the importance of “address[ing] regional economic challenges, including the rise of protectionism, non-market practices and economic coercion.” They recognised the benefits of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as the importance of the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement.
Deputy Minister for Trade Tim Ayres travelled to Singapore this week to attend the sixth meeting of the Commission of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the first in-person CPTPP Ministerial meeting since 2019. Ahead of his trip, Ayres noted that “the CPTPP is one of the most comprehensive trade deals ever concluded, delivering opportunities for Australian exporters, investors and firms engaged in international business” and that he “look[ed] forward to deepening Australia’s trade partnerships and discussing how to increase our cooperation and address our shared challenges.”
From 12 to 14 October, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles visited Papua New Guinea to “reaffirm our close and enduring friendship” with the nation. Marles met with Prime Minister James Marape, Deputy Prime Minister John Rosso, Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko and Defence Minister Win Bakri Daki, to “discuss priorities and opportunities in national security, infrastructure, agriculture, and economic cooperation.” He also attended the official openings of the Lae ANGAU Hospital redevelopment and the Taurama Barracks Chapel, as well as a friendship walk along part of the Kokoda Track, to mark the 80thanniversary of the Kokoda Campaign during the Second World War. Marles stated that his visit “reflects the importance Australia places on our friendship with our closest neighbour, and reaffirms the Government’s commitment to partnering with Papua New Guinea through the PNG-Australia Comprehensive Strategic and Economic Partnership (CSEP)”.
Minister for Defence Industry and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy announced his upcoming trip to Washington DC on 11 October. On his trip, Conroy aims “to deepen Australia’s cooperation with the United States on defence, international development and the Pacific.” He will meet with “senior leaders in the Biden Administration and the World Bank, as well as Finance Ministers from the Pacific who will be visiting Washington for the annual World Bank meetings” and stated that “the priorities of Pacific nations will be central to my discussions and are at the forefront of how Australia engages with the Pacific family.” Conroy also stated that his visit “will have a special focus on AUKUS opportunities”, including delivering a keynote address to the G’Day USA Defence Industry Dialogue.
Isabella Keith is a weekly columnist for Australian Outlook. She is also an undergraduate student at the Australian National University studying Law and Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Isabella’s research interests include international law and comparative constitutional law.
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