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21 July 2023: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

21 Jul 2023
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese off to Wellington to meet with Hipkins, AUSMIN next week in Brisbane, Wong meets with Wang Yi on ASEAN summit sidelines, 9th anniversary of downing of MH17, and more.

From 26-27 July, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will travel to Wellington, New Zealand to meet with his New Zealand counterpart Chris Hipkins for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ Meeting. Albanese noted that he “look[s] forward to continuing to work with Prime Minister Hipkins on ways to strengthen the special relationship Australia and New Zealand share.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles and Foreign Minister Penny Wong will welcome US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III to Brisbane for the 33rd Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) next week. At AUSMIN 2023, they will “discuss ways to deepen collaboration across the breadth of the relationship, including on defence and security cooperation, climate and clean energy, and economic resilience.”

On 13 July, Wong met with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Jakarta, Indonesia. In her opening remarks to Wang, Wong noted that she was “pleased to have the opportunity to meet again after the warm hospitality you showed me in Beijing last December, as we marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, and the personal contribution you have made to progress our bilateral relationship.” She also stated that the pair have “agreed in the past that a sound Australia-China relationship is not in contradiction with safeguarding our national interests, if both countries navigate our differences wisely.” Following the meeting, Wong stated that the discussion was “constructive” and that she “reiterated Australia’s position on a range of issues, including trade impediments, consular cases, human rights and Hong Kong.”

Wong acknowledged the ninth anniversary of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on 17 July, and also noted that Australia and its international partners have “made substantial progress in our pursuit for truth, justice and accountability over the last year.” She also stated that following the District Court of the Hague’s “unequivocal and conclusive findings of Russia’s involvement” in the downing late last year that “the Australian Government worked closely with the Netherlands and European Union to impose targeted financial sanctions and travel bans on persons involved in the downing of MH17.” Moreover, Wong noted that Australia and the Netherlands are “pursuing justice through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council.”

On 13 July, Wong, Minister for Health Mark Butler, and Minister for International Development Pat Conroy jointly announced that the Government is investing $13.3 milion in new partnerships between the Therapeutic Goods Administration and governments in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. They stated that the partnerships “will work to strengthen regulatory frameworks for medical products and help to increase the availability of safe and effective medicines, which will result in better-quality healthcare for communities.” Wong noted that “improving the health and wellbeing of communities across our region, including through better access to safe and effective medicines, is critical to ensuring our shared prosperity and security.”

Conroy travelled to Papua New Guinea on 18 July “to further strengthen the relationship between our two countries.” The visit is his fifth in the past year, “reflecting the depth and breadth of relations between Australia and PNG, including in sport which we celebrate both on and off the field.” While in PNG he will “attend an inaugural corporate dinner in support of PNG’s bid to become the next franchise in the NRL.”

On 16 July, Minister for Trade Don Farrell and Assistant Minister for Trade Tim Ayres noted that parties to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership have agreed to admit the United Kingdom as its first new member following two years of negotiation. They stated that Australia “warmly welcomes the UK as a new member of the CPTPP” and that “CPTPP membership enhances the UK’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific and supports our interest in working with partners to realise an open, inclusive and prosperous region.”

Ayres had travelled to New Zealand this week “to meet with like-minded partners and further advance Australia’s trade relationships.” While in Auckland, he attended the 7th meeting of the CPTPP, where he witnessed the conclusion of the UK’s CPTPP accession negotiations. He also attended the Australia-New Zealand Leadership Forum in Wellington, which highlighted “the 40th anniversary of the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement which continues to support prosperity and growth in both economies.”

On 16 July, Ayres announced that Australia is “joining international efforts to ensure trade agreements protect the environment, combat climate change, promote gender equality, secure labour rights and support First Nations trade.” Australia will “soon join the Inclusive Trade Action Group (ITAG) and Global Trade and Gender Arrangement (GTAGA) to pursue further commitments to sustainable, equitable and inclusive trade.” Ayres stated that doing so “adds to Australia’s global leadership in promoting sustainable and inclusive trade.” ITAG members are Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, New Zealand and Peru. GTAGA members are Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, New Zealand and Peru.

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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