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26 May 2023: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

26 May 2023
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese attends the G7 and Quad Summits in Hiroshima; Modi travels to Australia; more financial sanctions against Russia announced; Wong travels to the Philippines; and more.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese travelled to Hiroshima, Japan from 19-21 May to attend the G7 Summit at the invitation of Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio. On the sidelines of the G7 Summit, Albanese also convened the third in-person Quad Leaders’ Summit on 20 May with Kishida, United States President Joe Biden, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a joint statement issued by the Quad leaders following their Summit, they “reaffirm[ed their] steadfast commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific that is inclusive and resilient” as well as their “consistent and unwavering support for ASEAN centrality and unity.” The leaders also committed to working in partnership with Pacific Island countries “to achieve shared aspirations and address shared challenges”, emphasising that they will “listen to and be guided at every step by Pacific priorities, including climate action, ocean health, resilient infrastructure, maritime security and financial integrity.” They discussed the Quad’s “positive, practical agenda”, including addressing the climate crisis, the evolution of the Quad Vaccine Partnership into a broader Quad Health Security Partnership, the “Quad Infrastructure Fellowships Program”, and cooperation with Palau to establish a deployment of Open Radio Access Networks. Albanese noted that “while the Summit couldn’t take place in Sydney has planned, [he was] pleased to have convened a Quad meeting with counterparts … to discuss pressing challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region and deepening the Quad’s cooperation.” He also stated that “the Quad Leaders coming together in-person sends a strong message about Quad unity and what the group is able to achieve together.”

On 20 May, Albanese also met separately with Biden, where the pair signed a statement of intent to advance climate cooperation through the Climate, Critical Minerals, and Clean Energy Transformation Compact. The leaders also discussed the trilateral AUKUS partnership, and Biden noted that he plans to “ask the United States Congress to add Australia as a ‘domestic source’ within the meaning of Title III of the Defense Production Act”, in order to “streamline technological and industrial base collaboration, accelerate and strengthen AUKUS implementation, and build new opportunities for United States investment in the production and purchase of Australian critical minerals, critical technologies, and other strategic sectors.” The leaders acknowledged that they have reached agreement, in principle, subject to final domestic authorisations, on the Technology Safeguards Agreement, which will “allow for the controlled transfer of sensitive US launch technology and data while protecting US technology consistent with US non proliferation policy, the Missile Technology Control Regime and US export controls.” Moreover, they reiterated their commitment to “upholding a global order based on international law” and to the global non-proliferation regime.

Albanese and Kishida held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G7 on 21 May, where Albanese “congratulated Mr Kishida on his chairing of the G7 and reinforced Australia’s commitment to our special strategic partnership with Japan.” He also “underscored Australia’s commitment to remaining a reliable supplier of energy to Japan as both economies transition to net zero.” The leaders “agreed the broader trade and investment relationship was vital to the success of each nation” and “noted good progress in bilateral security cooperation under the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation and their shared commitment to an open, prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific.”

From 22-24 May, Modi travelled to Australia as a guest of the Australian Government, following the G7 Summit and Quad Leaders’ Meeting in Hiroshima over the weekend. The leaders met in Sydney on 24 May, where they “discussed the strength of the bilateral trade, investment and business relationship and reiterated their shared ambition for an early conclusion of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.” They also announced the finalisation of the Australia-India Migration and Mobility Partnership Arrangement, which will “promote the two-way mobility of students, graduates, academic researchers and business people, while also enhancing cooperation to prevent irregular migration and people smuggling.” Moreover, they welcomed progress towards establishing an Australia-India Green Hydrogen Taskforce and noted that its Terms of Reference have now been agreed upon. Albanese noted that the bilateral relationship with India is one that Australia “need[s] to invest in” and one which “will deliver benefits for Australia in trade, investment and business, and in regional security and stability.” He also stated that in his first year as Prime Minister, he has met with Modi six times, underscoring “the value we place on deepening ties between our nations.”

Albanese and Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong issued a joint statement on 19 May where they announced “financial sanctions and an export ban, targeting sectors of economic and strategic significance to Russia.” The new financial sanctions target 21 entities and three individuals, including subsidiaries of Russian state-owned atomic energy corporation Rosatom that are involved in nuclear research, infrastructure development and weapons manufacturing, five Russian banks, and Russia’s largest petroleum company, Rosneft. In addition, the Government will also implement a ban on the export of all machinery and related parts to Russia and “areas temporarily under Russian control”, to prevent Australian goods “from aiding Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.”

From 16-18 May, Wong travelled to the Philippines at the invitation of Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique A. Manalo. Wong and Manalo “positively assessed the state of the Comprehensive Partnership between the Philippines and Australia” and “discussed the progress and renewed the commitment between the two countries in elevating the bilateral relationship to a Strategic Partnership.” They also agreed to enhance trade and investment cooperation, including exploring possible cooperation on critical minerals. In addition, Wong announced a package of maritime cooperation initiatives, including technical assistance and capacity building for the Philippine Coast Guard. Wong and Manalo “exchanged views on the region, including the South China Sea, and agreed on the importance of securing a region that is open, stable and prosperous, where sovereignty is respected and where States operate in accordance with agreed rules and norms”. Manalo “acknowledged Australia’s strong support for the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal Award.” Wong also reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to ASEAN centrality, and the Ministers “welcomed the Quad’s commitment to support a peaceful and stable, rules-based region with ASEAN at the centre.”

Wong announced the appointment of Richard Feakes, a career diplomat, as Australia’s next Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism on 25 May. Feakes will have responsibility for leading Australia’s international engagement on counter-terrorism, including at international fora and will work closely with domestic agencies on counter-terrorism issues. He will also sit on the Commonwealth Joint Counter-Terrorism Board and the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee. On 25 May, Wong also announced the appointment of Brendan Dowling as Australia’s next Ambassador for Cyber Affairs and Critical Security. Dowling most recently served as First Assistant Secretary, Cyber and Critical Technology Coordination in the Department of Home Affairs. He will lead Australia’s international engagement on cyber affairs and critical technology issues, while also delivering cyber capacity building, crisis response and resilience across the region.

On 19 May, Wong issued a statement advising that Australian Dr Kenneth Elliott has been released after more than seven years in captivity in West Africa. She noted that Dr Elliott is safe and well, and has been reunited with his family. Wong also acknowledged “the strength and resilience Dr Elliott and members of his family have shown through the most difficult of circumstances.”

Minister for Trade Don Farrell travelled to the United States on 24 May, to lead Australia’s delegations at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) meetings. At the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting, Farrell will “advance Australia’s leading work to facilitate services trade, boost digital trade and promote inclusive and sustainable growth, including the economic empowerment of women and First Nations peoples.” At the IPEF Ministerial Meeting, he will “work with [his] counterparts to advance IPEF’s goal of establishing high-standard commitments that deepen partners economic engagement.” In Detroit, Farrell will participate in the Australia-US Strategic Commercial Dialogue with US Secretary of Commerce, Gina M. Raimondo, to “progress our common economic interests.”

This week, Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy travelled to Papua New Guinea (PNG) to represent Australia at the United States-Pacific Island Dialogue, which is being co-hosted by PNG Prime Minister James Marape and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. This is Conroy’s fourth visit to PNG as Minister for International Development and the Pacific, which he referred to as “reflecting the Australian Government’s deep commitment to the relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea and the special bond between our people.” While in PNG, Conroy will also meet with Pacific leaders in the sidelines of the dialogue and will “re-emphasis[e] Australia’s commitment to the prosperity and stability of our region.”

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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