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3 February 2023: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

03 Feb 2023
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: new NZ PM Hipkins to visit Australia, Albanese to deliver keynote address at Shangri-La Dialogue, Marles and Wong travel to France and UK for 2+2 and AUKMIN, and more.

On 31 January, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced that he will welcome the Prime Minister of New Zealand Chris Hipkins to Australia on 7 February. The visit will mark Hipkins’ first international trip as Prime Minister. Albanese noted that “Australia and New Zealand will celebrate important milestones in 2023, marking 40 years of our Closer Economic Relations Free Trade Agreement – one of the most comprehensive free trade agreements in the world – and 80 years of diplomatic representation.” He also stated that he is “look[ing] forward to welcoming Prime Minister Hipkins to Canberra and discussing ways to build on trans-Tasman cooperation.”

Albanese issued a press release on 1 February noting that he accepted an invitation to deliver the keynote address at the 20th Shangri-La Dialogue, convened by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, on 2 June in Singapore. He stated that the Dialogue “will provide an important platform for Australia’s voice to be heard on crucial issues affecting the future of the region on which Australia’s security and prosperity depends.” Albanese also noted that he is “honoured to deliver the keynote address and look forward to sharing Australia’s strategic outlook at the Dialogue” and that he “look[s] forward to travelling to Singapore for this important event.”

On 29 January, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles and Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong jointly announced their trip to France and the United Kingdom for the Australia-France Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations (2+2) and the Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN). The 2+2 meeting with the Ministers’ counterparts will “develop and align French and Australian responses to the increasingly challenging strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific and in Europe.” The AUKMIN meeting “will focus on modernising the bilateral relationship, elevating cooperation to tackle climate change, building economic resilience and contributing to global peace and security.” Wong will also travel to Brussels to meet with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Partnership Josep Borrell. Following the meetings in France and the United Kingdom, Marles will travel to the United States to meet with his counterpart, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.

Marles, Wong and their respective French counterparts Catherine Colonna and Sébastien Lecornu issued a joint statement following their 2+2 Meeting in Paris on 30 January. The Ministers “reflected the shared commitment to restore a dynamic bilateral relationship founded on trust and shared interests, in line with the priorities agreed by the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during their meeting on 1 July 2022.” They expressed their “shared commitment to Ukraine’s security” and “announced their intent to provide support to Ukraine including through joint supply of 155-millimetre ammunition.” The Ministers also discussed cooperation in the Pacific, action on climate change and protection of biodiversity, infrastructure resilience and humanitarian aid, maritime security, and greater bilateral cooperation.

On 31 January, while in the United Kingdom, Wong addressed the Centre for Grand Strategy at King’s College, London, referring to the bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom as “an enduring partnership in an era of change.” She noted that “as the nature of our nations, our regions and indeed our world has changed, so too has the character of our relationship” and discussed her own family’s experience with British colonisation. Wong stated that “one of the most important ways our countries can modernise our relationships is in the story we tell the world about who we are, which is, of course, the starting point of our foreign policies.” She further noted that “in our modern, tightly-woven world, what happens in Europe reverberates in the Indo-Pacific” and that “what happens in the Indo-Pacific reverberates in Europe.” Wong reiterated the importance of ASEAN centrality and welcomed the United Kingdom becoming the first new ASEAN Dialogue Partner in 25 years. She concluded by stating that “we are committed to working with you, with our partners, and with our region … to help build the alignment we need, so that we can shape the region and world we want – stable, prosperous, secure and respectful of sovereignty.”

Wong issued a statement condemning the terrorist attack in Jerusalem on 27 January that “claimed the lives of at least seven worshippers.” She stated, “that such a cowardly and callous attack occurred on a day where we remember the atrocities of the Holocaust is utterly reprehensible” and expressed her “deep concern with escalating violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.” Wong “call[ed] on all sides to exercise restraint, and to refrain from actions that harm civilians” and further noted that “Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace and security.”

 On 1 February, Wong and Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts announced sanctions in response to “human rights violations in Myanmar and Iran.” The Myanmar sanctions include “targeted financial sanctions and travel bans on individuals responsible for egregious human rights abuses in Myanmar, as well as sanctions on entities enabling the repression of its people.” Sanctioned individuals include 16 members of the Myanmar military regime’s governing State Administration Council, and two Myanmar military controlled entities, Myanmar Economic Public Holdings Ltd and Myanmar Economic Corporation. Wong stated that “over the past two years Australia, ASEAN and international partners have repeatedly called on the Myanmar regime to engage in constructive dialogue and find a peaceful and durable resolution to the ongoing crisis” and that “Australia strongly supports ASEAN’s leadership as a key element in responding to the Myanmar crisis.” The Iranian sanctions consist of “Magnitsky-style sanctions on 16 Iranian individuals and one Iranian entity”, as well as “additional targeted financial sanctions on four Iranian individuals and four entities involved in the production and supply of drones to Russia.”

Wong announced the appointment of senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Tegan Brink, as Australia’s next High Commissioner to South Africa. Brink will also be accredited to Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and Namibia. Wong noted that Australia’s relationship with South Africa is “strong and longstanding” and is “underpinned by close economic partnership and extensive people-to-people links.”

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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