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2 June 2023: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

02 Jun 2023
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese travels to Singapore to deliver keynote address at Shangri-La Dialogue, Marles attends inaugural Korea-Pacific Islands Summit, Wong announces additional humanitarian support for the Middle East and Africa, and more.

This week, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is travelling to Singapore from 1 to 2 June to deliver the keynote address at the 20th Shangri-La Dialogue, and to meet with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for annual bilateral discussions. Ahead of his trip, he stated that he will use his address to “outline Australia’s vision for a stable, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific.” Albanese will also travel to Vietnam from 3 to 4 June to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations. He noted that his “first official visit to Vietnam is an opportunity to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations and agree on new areas of economic, trade and other cooperation to deliver a stronger relationship into the future.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles visited the Republic of Korea to attend the inaugural Korea-Pacific Islands Summit on 29 May 2023, on behalf of Albanese. During his visit, the Deputy Prime Minister also met with President Yoon Suk Yeol and his Defence counterpart, Korean Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-sup. At their meeting, Marles and Lee “agreed that Australia and the ROK would work on an enhanced bilateral framework, building on the 2011 Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation.” Marles stated that “Australia welcomes Korea’s interest in deepening ties with the Pacific, and looks forward to building on our foundation of shared values to promote our mutual interest in a prosperous and resilient Pacific.”

On 29 May, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong, Minister for International Development Pat Conroy, and Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs jointly announced that the Government will provide an additional $29 million to “humanitarian partners to respond to the growing food security crisis and to assist vulnerable people in the Middle East and Africa.” This comprises “$15 million to address increased humanitarian, displacement and protection needs of people in drought-affected areas in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia”, “$4 million to provide food and nutrition support to the most vulnerable in Yemen”, and “$10 million for food and monetary assistance to refugees and vulnerable populations in Lebanon and Jordan.” Wong noted that “Australia is using all elements of our national power to shape the world for the better, including by providing humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable.”

Wong made two diplomatic appointments this week: Brendan Dowling as Australia’s next Ambassador for Cyber Affairs and Critical Technology and Richard Feakes as Australia’s next Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism. Dowling “has had a distinguished career in cyber affairs” who most recently served as First Assistant Secretary, Cyber and Critical Technology Coordination Centre within the Department of Home Affairs. Feakes is a career diplomat, who has most recently served as Commonwealth Deputy Counter-Terrorism Coordinator within the Department of Home Affairs and whose previous diplomatic roles include Australian Ambassador to Afghanistan and postings to Iraq and Papua New Guinea.

On 27 May, Wong marked two years since Australian citizen, Dr Yang Jun, “faced a closed trial in Beijing.” She noted that Dr Yang is still awaiting a verdict and that the Australian Government “remains deeply concerned about delays in his case.”

Minister for Trade Don Farrell announced the entry into force of the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement on 31 May, which he referred to as “a gold standard trade deal that delivers benefits for all Australians – including manufacturers, workers, farmers, tradies, innovators, families, and students.” He also noted that it “creates new opportunities to deepen and expand trade and investment with one of Australia’s most important and longstanding trading partners.” On the same day, Farrell also published an opinion piece in The Australian where he noted that the bilateral partnership “has gone from strength to strength, with AUKUS, our bold commitments to tackle climate change, and of course this trade agreement.” Farrell also stated that “the Albanese Government continues to pursue a comprehensive trade agenda”, referring to negotiations to advance Australia’s free trade deal with India, as well as efforts to conclude negotiations on a free trade agreement with the European Union “as soon as possible.”

On 26 May, Farrell issued a joint statement with United States Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, following the Second Annual Australia-US Strategic Commercial Dialogue (SCD) that day in Detroit, Michigan. The Minister and Secretary “committed to building [their] strategic cooperation” in the following areas: the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF); the May 20 Australia-US Climate, Critical Minerals and Clean Energy Transformation Compact; and economic security. Farrell and Raimondo joined Ministers from the other 12 IPEF countries in Detroit the next day “to welcome the substantial conclusion of a first-of-its-kind agreement to better address modern supply chain challenges”, the IPEF Supply Chains Agreement. The Agreement will “establish a world-first Crisis Response Network to facilitate faster collective responses to critical shortages and supply chain disruptions.”

Isabella Keith is a weekly columnist for Australian Outlook. She is also a Research Assistant, Sessional Academic, and Honours student in Law at the Australian National University, with a focus on international law. Isabella attended the AIIA #NextGen study tour to South Korea last year, and was also a delegate to the AIIA’s Australia-Korea-New Zealand and Australia-United States-Japan Policy Forums. She can be found on Twitter here.

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