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20 January 2023: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

20 Jan 2023
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese and Marape hold 4th PNG-Australia Annual Leaders’ Dialogue in Port Moresby; Ayres travels to Italy and Switzerland to advance trade partnerships; ADF personnel deployed to the UK to help train Ukrainian soldiers; and more.

On 12 January, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape held the fourth Papua New Guinea-Australia Annual Leaders’ Dialogue in Port Moresby. The Prime Ministers announced the development of a “Bilateral Security Treaty” (BST), and committed to “concluding substantive negotiations for the BST by 30 April 2023”. They described the BST as “a natural progression in our security partnership, reflecting our longstanding cooperation, shared history, geographical proximity, common regional strategic outlook, and close people-to-people links.” They further stated that the BST “will further enhance our security partnership by providing a legally binding framework for security cooperation across our many areas of mutual interest and contribute to bilateral and regional security, trust, and stability.” Moreover, it “will provide an enabling framework for our current and future traditional and non-traditional security cooperation.”

Following the Dialogue, the Prime Ministers also issued a joint statement noting that they had “reaffirmed the vital partnership between Papua New Guinea and Australia and their shared interests in the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific and an environment conducive to our mutual economic prosperity” and further underlined their joint commitment to the Papua New Guinea-Australia Comprehensive Strategic and Economic Partnership and agreed on “the importance of continued close cooperation and dialogue.” Moreover, they “recognised the deep cultural and historical bonds between [the two nations] as special sovereign partners.”

Albanese also addressed the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea at a state dinner on 12 January. He began by noting that “to be the first foreign Head of Government invited to address your Parliament was a great honour”. He traces the history of Australia and Papua New Guinea “through thousands of years of connection and culture between our peoples” and refers to the Australian flag “not [being] torn down, but respectfully lowered” and that “the vibrant colours of your proud and independent nation rose to fly in its place.” He noted that the BST incorporates the “principle of regionalism and that sense of deep trust” that comes with both nations being “Pacific Ocean states determined to preserve peace and security in our region, [and] recognising the value and the importance of a family-first approach.” Albanese also discusses future cooperation on education, healthcare, and “unlock[ing] new areas of investment in [renewable energy resources] as well as agriculture and infrastructure.”

On 18 January, Assistant Minister for Trade Tim Ayres announced that he will travel to Switzerland and Italy this week, to “strengthen Australia’s trade partnerships and advance Australia’s trade and investment interests.” While in Switzerland, Ayres will attend the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting and will use the opportunity “to promote Australia as an attractive investment destination” and will discuss “action required to address a range of economic, geopolitical, and environmental challenges.” Ayres will also “advance Australia’s priorities” at the World Trade Organization (WTO), including “progressing reforms to ensure the multilateral trading system is relevant, active and effective.” He noted that reforming the WTO is “a key priority” and that he “look[s] forward to joining Ottawa Group Ministers to discuss these critical reforms.” In Italy, Ayres will meet with the newly-elected Meloni Government to discuss “the strengthening of [the] bilateral trade relationship” and will also advocate for the conclusion of negotiations for “an ambitious and comprehensive” Australia-EU trade agreement. Finally, Ayres will engage with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome “to discuss rising levels of food insecurity and the importance of international trade and reforms to the agricultural sector.” Ayres also noted that the visit “will reinforce the Australian Government’s support to friends and partners in Europe as they continue to face challenges associated with Russia’s illegal, immoral, and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles, along with Minister for Defence Personnel and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Matt Keogh, issued a joint statement on 18 January announcing that “a contingent of up to 70 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel will deploy as part of ADF Operation KUDU [to the United Kingdom]” to provide “critical training to Ukrainian recruits to support their national defence in response to Russia’s illegal invasion.” Marles stated that The training will focus on “basic infantry tactics for urban and wooded environments”. Marles and Keogh also noted that the ADF personnel will not enter Ukraine as part of the program, but that the operation “demonstrates Australia’s ongoing commitment to stand with the people of Ukraine, and continued support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The statement also mentions that Australia has provided Ukraine with approximately $655 million in support to date, including $475 million in military assistance.

On 16 January, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Birmingham announced that he will travel to Papua New Guinea for five days “to understand the impact of development work, particularly in the health sphere, and undertake local meetings.” He will visit Port Moresby, as well as Kuriva, Kerea, Pari, Goroka and Asaro and will undertake discussions “with PNG officials, Australian officials, regional leaders, development partners, delivery agencies, and local communities.” Birmingham thanked the Pacific Friends of Global Health and Save the Children “for their support in undertaking this visit” and he welcomed “the opportunity to focus on important matters such as maternal health, family and sexual violence, water safety and the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis, malaria and HIV.”

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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