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17 June: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

17 Jun 2022
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese meets with Ardern, Australia reaches a settlement with French Naval Group following the termination of the Attack class submarine program, Wong visits New Zealand and Solomon Islands, Marles travels to Singapore and Japan and meets with his Chinese counterpart, and more.

On 10 June, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, in Sydney. In a press release, Albanese noted that Ardern is the “first foreign leader [he has] met with as Prime Minister on Australian soil” and that the two countries have “common culture and values, shared interests and outlooks.” He further stated that the leaders “both know that trade and integration mean jobs, growth and opportunities” and that they are “determined to work together to take the trans-Tasman economic relationship to new heights.”

In a joint press conference with Ardern on 10 June, Albanese further stated that the leaders “are determined to take Trans-Tasman relations to a new level.” He noted that the nations are “determined to work together on global security, but also on the economic security that people need.” Albanese also confirmed that the Australian Government will “submit an updated nationally determined contribution to the [United Nations] Framework Convention on Climate Change soon.”

On 11 June, Albanese announced that the Australian Government had reached “a fair and equitable settlement of €555 million (around $830 million) with Naval Group” following the Morrison Government’s decision to terminate the Attack class submarine program. He further stated that “[n]ow that the matter is resolved we can move forward with the relationship with France … Given the gravity of the challenges that we face both in the region and globally, it is essential that Australia and France once again unite to defend our shared principles and interests: the primacy of international law; respect for sovereignty; the rejection of all forms of coercion; and taking resolute action on climate change.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong issued a statement on 15 June noting that she will travel to New Zealand and Solomon Islands “to reinforce our close friendships and cooperation in our region.” Wong will meet with her New Zealand counterpart, Nanaia Mahuta, for Foreign Minister Consultations, including discussions on “ways we can work together, to make the most of the new energy and resources the Australian Government is bringing to the Pacific.” She further noted that “[t]here are new possibilities for collaboration with New Zealand in support of regional security and on climate change.” In Solomon Islands, Wong will meet with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and “a number of his Cabinet ministers”. Wong stated that “we are committed to deepening our cooperation with Solomon Islands, as we work together to face shared challenges and achieve our shared goals, including on climate change” and that she “look[s] forward to discussing the ways we can continue to make progress on pandemic recovery, economic development and labour mobility priorities, and addressing our shared security interests.”

On 10 June, Wong issued a media release noting that the Australian Government “rejects this week’s court ruling in Myanmar against Australian Professor Sean Turnell.” Turnell remains imprisoned in Myanmar, and Wong stated that Australia “continue[s] to call for his immediate release … We will continue to advocate for Professor Turnell’s interests and well-being and will not stop until he is safely back with his family.”

Wong, alongside Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill Shorten, congratulated Rosemary Kayess on her re-election to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 15 June. The Ministers noted that Kayess’ candidacy was “strongly supported by the Australian Government and Australian organisations of persons with disabilities.” Wong stated that the re-election “is a strong endorsement from [Kayess’] international peers of her decades-long work to progress disability rights.”

On 11 June, Wong issued a joint statement with Minister for Trade Don Farrell announcing the Australian Government’s $2.9 million contribution to the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), to help “developing and least-developed countries build capacity to participate in, and benefit from, the multilateral rules-based trading system.” The Ministers stated that the Government “is committed to supporting developing countries to enhance their ability to export, their international competitiveness, and their engagement in the global economy.” Wong noted that the Australian Government’s priority “is to ensure our partners can support their development goals by exercising their [World Trade Organization (WTO)] rights and fulfilling their WTO obligations.”

Farrell announced on 9 June that he will travel to Geneva to lead the Australian delegation to the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) alongside Assistant Minister for Trade Tim Ayres. Farrell stated that “Australia will work to achieve outcomes that support governments dealing with the challenges posed by COVID-19 and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, including in areas such as access to vaccines and other medical products, the promotion of digital trade and food security.” Ayres led Australia’s delegation to the annual OECD Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris on 9 and 10 June, to “discuss Australia’s new climate change ambitions, the impacts of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine on global food and energy security, and the importance of free and open trade in the global economic recovery from COVID-19.”

In his opening address at MC12 on 13 June, Farrell noted that “Australia strongly believes we must continue efforts to reform the WTO so that it better serves the interests of all Members.” In addition to general reform of the WTO, Farrell advocated for a WTO pandemic response, agricultural reform, an agreement to limit subsidies that undermine fish stocks. Farrell also chaired a meeting of the Cairns Group Ministers, “a coalition of 19 agricultural fair-trading countries committed to agricultural reform in the WTO” prior to the MC12 opening ceremony. Of this meeting, he stated that the Ministers “affirmed our joint determination to see concrete progress at MC12 towards equitable agricultural trade reform and to continue working together to create a more level playing field in agricultural trade globally.”

From 10-12 June, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles visited Singapore for the 19th Shangri-La Dialogue. Marles stated that “the Indo-Pacific is in the midst of the most consequential strategic alignment of our time” and that he “welcome[s] the role [the Shangri-La] Dialogue plays in shaping robust conversation on strategic challenges and regional security dynamics.” In his address to the Dialogue, Marles noted that “Australia will embark on a new era of engagement in the Pacific” and will “become a more engaged and responsive partner to our Pacific neighbours.” He referred to Wong’s visits to “several Pacific Island nations” and Albanese’s first international trip being to Indonesia. Marles further noted that “this Government will be respectful, including with countries where we have complex relationships. This includes China. Australia values a productive relationship with China. China is not going anywhere. And we all need to live together and, hopefully, prosper together.” Following the Dialogue, Marles delivered a press conference where he noted that he had met with his Chinese counterpart on 12 June, the first such meeting in three years. Marles referred to the meeting as “important” and “one which the Australian government welcomes”, as well as being “an opportunity to have a very frank and full exchange” where Marles raised “a number of issues of concern to Australia, including the incident involving Australia’s P-8 aircraft on the 26th of May”.

While in Singapore, Marles also met with his United States and Japanese counterparts for the United States-Japan-Australia Trilateral Defense Ministers Meeting on 11 June. In a joint statement, the leaders noted that they had “exchanged views on the regional security environment and committed to work together to take concrete, practical steps to ensure the security, stability, and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.” They discussed concerns about Russia’s attack on Ukrainian territory, the “increasingly severe security environment in the South China Sea”, “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” and the centrality of ASEAN. They also committed to increasing trilateral exercises, expanded trilateral cooperation “on advanced technologies and strategic capabilities”, and “effectively leverag[ing] trilateral mechanisms of information exchange.”

From 13-15 June, Marles travelled to Japan to meet with his counterparts and “key defence and national security figures” in order to “discuss our shares approach in the Indo-Pacific.” Marles stated that “Japan is a critical partner in achieving our regional objectives. Our partnership continues to grow as we pursue new and ambitious avenues for cooperation, including through the Reciprocal Access Agreement signed in January.” Following his meeting with his Japanese counterpart Kishi Nobuo on 15 June, the Ministers issued a joint statement on “advancing defence cooperation.” They committed to “continu[ing] the ambitious upward trajectory of defence cooperation” between the two nations, including through increasing space and cyber cooperation, “strengthen[ing] our mutual industrial bases through collaboration on supply chains” and “leverag[ing] our respective strengths to advance our cooperation on science and technology.”

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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