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24 June: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

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

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese announces new DFAT Secretary Jan Adams, Wong meets with Mahuta in Wellington, Wong and Dreyfus issue a statement on Assange’s extradition, Marles travels to India, Farrell and Ayres attend MC12 in Geneva, O’Neil travels to Sri Lanka, and more.

On 22 June, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced his intention to recommend to the Governor-General the appointment of Jan Adams as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.Adams will commence her role on 1 July 2022, replacing current Secretary Kathryn Campbell. Albanese noted that Campbell “will be taking up a senior appointment in the Defence portfolio in an AUKUS-related role.”

Albanese, alongside Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen, conveyed Australia’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement to the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on 16 June. This “formalises Australia’s pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and will put Australia on track to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.” The Ministers further noted that when Parliament resumes, the Government will “seek to enshrine these targets in legislation.” Albanese stated that “the new target reflects my Government’s resolve to urgently step up the pace of action, and work alongside global partners and particularly with our Pacific family, to tackle the climate crisis and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.”

On 16 June, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong met with her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta in Wellington for the biannual Australia – Aotearoa New Zealand Foreign Minister Consultations. The Ministers noted the two nations’ “close friendship” is “more essential than ever for the security and well-being of our citizens” and that they are “at their best when they stand united as allis.” They discussed “concerns at the growing strategic competition in the Pacific region,” while also agreeing “on the need to place the perspectives and priorities of Pacific Island nations at the forefront of both countries’ engagement in the Pacific.” The Ministers further noted “the clear and consistent message from Pacific Island nations that climate change is the most critical challenge they face” and emphasised their “shared commitment to working with Pacific Island nations to address the complex issues facing the region.”

Wong issued a joint statement with Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on the United Kingdom’s decision to extradite Julian Assange to the United States on 17 June. The Ministers noted “that Mr Assange has several avenues through which he can appeal this decision” and that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade “will continue to offer consular assistance to Mr Assange.” However, they further stated that “Australia is not a party to Mr Assange’s case” and that the Australian Government cannot “interfere in the legal matters of another country.” Wong and Dreyfus reiterated that “the Australian Government has been clear in our view that Mr Assange’s case has dragged on for too long and that it should be brought to a close.”

On 20 June, Wong noted that Australia will provide $50 million in Official Development Assistance “to support Sri Lanka [to] meet urgent food and healthcare needs.” She stated that “Sri Lanka currently faces its worst economic crisis in seventy years” and that the assistance “will support health services, and economic recovery, with a strong emphasis on protecting those at risk, especially women and girls.” On the same day, Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil travelled to Sri Lanka to meet with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister, G. L. Peiris. The visit coincides with the 75thanniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. O’Neil issued a joint media release with Peiris, where the Ministers noted the “strong bilateral relationship” and discussed “opportunities to deepen the partnership … particularly the gold standard cooperation in the area of irregular migration.” The Ministers “recommitted their resolve to continue working together to thwart people smugglers and to prevent the loss of life and risk to livelihoods of innocent people.” O’Neil also “reiterated Australia’s strong support to Sri Lanka in its efforts to overcome the current economic challenges and agreed to cooperate with Sri Lanka in this context.”

Wong announced on 17 June that, following Solomon Islands’ request, Australia will deliver “up to 200,000 paediatric COVID-19 vaccine doses” to facilitate the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wong noted that “Australia is standing with Solomon Islands to ensure children can be vaccinated against COVID-19, protecting them and their communities from serious illness and minimising disruption to learning caused by the pandemic.”

On 16 June, Wong and Minister for International Development Pat Conroy issued a joint statementwhere they noted that Australia will provide “an initial $675,000 to assist Kiribati [in] respond[ing] to the country’s severe drought”, following the nation’s declaration of a State of Disaster three days earlier. Wong noted that “as Pacific family members, Australia is standing with Kiribati to meet the challenges of climate change and its impacts.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles visited India from 20-23 June. On his trip, he met with his counterpart Rajnath Singh for the bilateral Defence Ministers’ Meeting, where the Ministers reviewed the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, reviewed strategic challenges and reaffirmed their “shared objective of an open, free, inclusive, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific region.” While in India, Marles also addressed the National Defence College in New Delhi on 22 June, where he referred to his article in the Indian Express published that day, stating that “Australia must deepen its understanding of, and engagement with [India], one of the world’s oldest continuous civilisations, the soon to be most populous nation in the world, and a deeply consequential power.” Moreover, in his address, Marles stated that “Australia stands ready to work even more closely with India for an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific” and that “one of the priorities of the new Australian Government is India.”

On 19 June, Marles noted that the first four M113AS4 Armoured Personal Carriers being gifted to Ukraine from Australia had departed RAAF Base Amberley. Marles stated that “we will continue to look at ways we can best help the people of Ukraine. Australia stand with Ukraine, and again calls on Russia to cease its unprovoked, unjust and illegal invasion of Ukraine.”

Marles will attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2022 in Rwanda on 23-26 June alongside Conroy, who will attend on behalf of Wong. Marles stated that he “look[s] forward to engaging with leaders from the Commonwealth and promoting democratic values and human rights, action on climate change, and sustainable and resilient health systems as a key element of post COVID-19 recovery.”

In a joint release on 19 June, Minister for Trade Don Farrell and Assistant Minister for Trade Tim Ayres “welcomed the strong outcomes achieved at the 12th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva.” The Ministers stated that “the success of the Conference provides a significant boost to confidence in the rules-based multilateral trading system on which Australia relies for stability and prosperity.” They referred to the new agreement on fisheries subsidies as a “significant achievement” following 20 years of negotiations. They further noted that “Australia will advocate for improved WTO rules to reflect new and emerging challenges, and to restore the health of the WTO’s dispute settlement system.”

While at MC12, Farrell and Ayres co-hosted a meeting with their Pacific counterparts, where they “discussed opportunities for Pacific Island countries to enhance their participation in global and regional trade and benefit further from the multilateral rules-based trading system.” They also reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to ensuring that increased trade “continues to support our Pacific family’s economic recovery from COVID-19.”

Farrell also met with his Indian and European Union counterparts on 16 June while at MC12 to advance Australia’s free trade negotiations with the two nations. With Indian Minister Piyush Goyal, Farrell “committed to move rapidly to commence negotiations on the full Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement and [to] capitalise on the enormous potential for closer economic ties between Australia and India.” During his meeting with European Union Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, the leaders discussed “the important economic and strategic relationship between Australia and the European Union” and their “shared interest in concluding an ambitious free trade agreement, and in exploring new avenues for cooperation on climate and energy.” Farrell stated that “India and the EU are key economic and strategic partners for Australia, and the Australian Government is committed to using our trade links to strengthen these partnerships.”

On 13 June, Farrell spoke with his United States counterpart, Katherine Tai, at MC12, where he welcomed the United States’ “commitment to regional economic leadership through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework”. He stated that he “look[s] forward to working closely with Ambassador Tai to build an inclusive Framework that complements regional architecture and supports regional prosperity and resilience.” Farrell and Tai also discussed their intention “to work closely on policy approaches that address the challenges we face around climate, energy and supply chains”, as well as “exchang[ing] views on the WTO and how we can work together to strengthen its effectiveness.”

Farrell also announced on 16 June that Australia had concluded its market access negotiations with Timor-Leste in the sidelines of MC12, following discussions with his Timor-Leste counterpart Joaquim Amaral. He noted that “Australia looks forward to working with Timor-Leste to enhance its access to, and benefits from, the multilateral rules-based trading system” and that Timor-Leste’s “accession to the WTO will support [its] further integration in to the regional and global economy, and promote its sustainable growth and economic resilience.” Farrell stated that Australia “will continue to support Timor-Leste’s accession to the WTO through targeted technical assistance and capacity building to help Timor-Leste accede and implement its WTO obligations.”

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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