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15 October: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

15 Oct 2021
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Australia is “heading to the Moon,” G20 Extraordinary Leaders’ Meeting on Afghanistan, the annual South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting, and more.

On 13 October, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia is “heading to the Moon.” The government has reached an agreement with the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for an Australian-made rover to be “included in a future mission.” Morrison noted that “leading Australian businesses and researchers will come together to develop the rover, backed by $50 million in funding from the Trailblazer program in the Government’s Moon to Mars initiative.”

Morrison attended a virtual G20 Extraordinary Leaders’ Meeting on Afghanistan on 12 October. He stated that “it is crucial that the world’s major economies work together to support the people of Afghanistan. We must be coordinated in our approach to Afghanistan’s immediate humanitarian needs, to demand the Taliban regime ensure safe passage from Afghanistan for foreign citizens and visa holders, and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorism.”

On 8 October, Minister for Defence Peter Dutton chaired the annual South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting (SPDMM), held with his counterparts from Chile, Fiji, France, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga. In the meeting, the Ministers “reaffirmed their commitment to work together in response to shared security threats.” Dutton noted that “the SPDMM provides a platform to drive more effective regional cooperation with partners that share our interest in a peaceful and secure Pacific.” Substantive outcomes agreed upon at the SPDMM include Australia supporting the Pacific-led initiative to develop a Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Response Framework “to refine the way countries within the South Pacific work together when disaster strikes.” Japan has been granted observer status and will attend the meeting in Tonga next year.

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan virtually co-chaired the Second Australia-Vietnam Economic Partnership Meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Chi Dung, on 8 October. The ministers noted the progress of the development of the Australia-Vietnam Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy, reaffirmed their commitment to the rules-based multilateral trading system, and announced the appointment of Business Champions “to promote further two-way trade and investment links.”

On 11 October, Tehan and his Singaporean counterpart, Gan Kim Yong, noted that the two nations are developing a Green Economy Agreement (GEA). The GEA “will further accelerate both countries’ transition towards a green and sustainable future, and help to create good jobs and lower carbon emissions.” The GEA will consider practical initiatives to promoting trade and investment, and will aim to “remove non-tariff barriers to trade in environmental goods and services.” Tehan stated that the GEA will “deliver benefits for both countries by lowering the cost and accelerating the uptake of green technology.”

Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja and Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud announced on 7 October that the Australian government is partnering with international development organisation DT Global to “grow agricultural trade with Pacific Island countries and enhance biosecurity.” The program “will assist Pacific Island producers to improve product quality and find new markets for their goods.” Littleproud stated that “[the Department of Agriculture] and DT Global will work closely with Pacific Island nations to support growers in managing pests and also help to ensure these pests don’t get the chance to pose a threat to Australian farmers.” Seselja noted that the program “is supporting business-led economic growth in our region.”

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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