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16 September 2022: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

16 Sep 2022
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese to travel to UK for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and Japan for Abe Shinzo’s funeral; Wong meets with Vietnamese counterpart and Mongolian Deputy PM; Watts addresses Australia China Business Council Networking Day Gala Dinner; and more.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will travel to the United Kingdom for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth IIon 19 September, alongside Governor-General David Hurley, Australia’s Heads of State, and ten other “everyday Australians”. The delegation will join the acting United Kingdom High Commissioner, Lynette Wood. While in the United Kingdom, Albanese will meet with King Charles III, as well as the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss. Albanese noted that he had spoken with Truss on 9 September and that they discussed “the depth of mourning that is occurring in the United Kingdom” and “the depth of sadness of the Australian people at the loss of Queen Elizabeth II.”

From 26 to 28 September, Albanese will visit Japan to attend the State Funeral for Abe Shinzo, former Japanese Prime Minister. Former Prime Ministers John Howard, Tony Abbott, and Malcolm Turnbull, who all worked with Abe during his two terms as Japanese Prime Minister, will also join the official delegation. In a press release, Albanese noted that Abe “was instrumental in elevating Australia’s relationship with Japan to a Special Strategic Partnership and did more than anyone to advocate for a free and open Indo-Pacific.” He also stated that the two nations “will continue to strengthen our partnership and build upon the significant contributions of Mr Abe”, including the Quad and the Australia-Japan Reciprocal Access Agreement.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong met with her Vietnamese counterpart, Bui Thanh Son, in Canberra on 12 September for the Australia-Vietnam Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. In a media release following the meeting, Wong noted that this is the first visit to Australia by a Vietnamese minister since 2019, and that the Ministers had “warm and productive discussions about how we can further expand our Strategic Partnership.” She further stated that they “discussed ways to strengthen our climate change cooperation as both countries work towards meeting our commitments to net zero emissions by 2050.” Wong also announced that Australia will provide Vietnam with an additional 4.2 million adult Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses, in addition to the 22.2 million delivered to date.

On 14 September, Wong met with Mongolian Deputy Prime Minister S. Amarsaikhan, to acknowledge the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations. She noted that “our business, educational, and people-to-people ties have grown year-on-year since we officially established relations”, and that Mongolia’s decision in 2007 to “designate Australia a ‘third neighbour’ was a significant milestone for our relations.” Wong stated that she and Amarsaikhan both “look forward to supporting the Australia-Mongolia relationship to grow even stronger in the years ahead.”

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts addressed the Australia China Business Council Networking Day Gala Dinner on 13 September. In his speech, he referred to the bilateral Australia-China relationship as “both complex and consequential”, and that “interest in China has never been higher”, while “access to China has never been lower.” Watts described “business, people-to-people and government relationships” as each being “important and complementary strands of effort as we look to the future.” He reaffirmed Wong’s message when she met with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in July, that “at this juncture, Australia and China have an opportunity to pursue stabilisation [and] move forward with a better understanding of how our two countries can interact to our mutual advantage.” Watts further stated that “if China engages with Australia directly and constructively, we will respond in time.” He also acknowledged that 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations, and referred to this as a “significant milestone.”

On 9 September, Minister for Trade Don Farrell attended the first in-person ministerial meeting of the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) in Los Angeles. In attendance were the Trade Ministers from Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam. The members released a series of joint ministerial statements on each of the four pillars of the IPEF: “trade, including digital trade”, “supply chains”, “clean energy, decarbonisation and infrastructure” and “tax and anti-corruption”. In a media statement, Farrell referred to the IPEF negotiations as “a significant step in the future of greater economic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region”, and that attending the negotiations was “a privilege”. Farrell also stated that IPEF members “agreed to start work immediately to develop projects that develop projects that provide tangible benefits across the IPEF membership.”

Farrell will travel to Cambodia this week for the 54th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting in Siem Reap, the first meeting of economic ministers since ASEAN leaders agreed to a new Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Australia in October 2021. Farrell noted that “Australia is committed to working closely with ASEAN to deliver real substance under our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and our regional trade agreements, for the benefit of Australia, ASEAN and the broader Indo-Pacific region.” While in Cambodia, Farrell will also attend the inaugural Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) Ministers’ Meeting. He stated that RCEP “provides a platform for economic cooperation and sends a strong signal of regional support for trade liberalisation and the rules-based order.”

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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