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3 November 2023: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

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

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese addresses US State Department, Marles travels to US and UK, support for Vanuatu following Tropical Cyclone Lola, and more.

On 27 October, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressed the United States State Department in Washington DC. He emphasised that he “stand[s] here in Washington as the leader of America’s steadfast ally”. Albanese discussed challenges to the rules-based order, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and “the atrocities committed by Hamas”. He also noted that “Australia strongly supports the Biden Administration’s efforts to maintain open lines of communication between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.” Moreover, Albanese touched on the new trilateral AUKUS agreement, stating that the decision to sign up to the agreement “is anchored in our own national sovereignty – and in the sovereign interests of the United States and the United Kingdom.”

Albanese issued a statement on the passing of former Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Li Keqiang on 27 October. He noted that “during Mr Li’s period in office, significant strides were made in our bilateral relationship including the conclusion of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement” and that “when  we met last year in the margins of the East Asia Summit, we discussed the importance of these ties and our desire to see them develop further.” He extended his “heartfelt condolences to his family and to the people of China.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles travelled to the United States and United Kingdom this week to meet with counterparts and to “discuss shared security objectives.” He has undertaken “critical engagements to further progress Australia’s acquisition of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines.” In the United States, Marles met with his counterpart Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin, as well as the US Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, senior members of the Biden administration, members of Congress and defence industry representatives. In the United Kingdom, Marles met with newly-appointed Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden and defence industry representatives. He also representedAustralia at the Artificial Intelligence Safety Summit Leaders’ level discussions, where he joined a “landmark” Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy, which is an initiative of the United States.

On 2 November, Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite joined Papua New Guinea (PNG) Deputy Prime Minister John Rosso to hand over two new PAC 750 light transport aircraft to the PNG Defence Force in Port Moresby. Thistlethwaite stated that “Australia is pleased to be able to partner with the PNGDF to strengthen their aviation capability and to respond to the needs of the Government and people of Papua New Guinea” and that “the two aircraft will create new opportunities for our forces to work together building on our longstanding defence partnership.” He also stated at a speech during the ceremonial gifting that “our two countries have a long shared history, and we look to an even greater future as we work together to navigate our shared challenges and safeguard our peace and security.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy jointly announced an initial $800,000 in support for Vanuatu in response to Tropical Cyclone Lola. They also noted that the Government is “liaising closely with the Government of Solomon Islands on its needs following the cyclone.” The package for Vanuatu “will provide essential items for impacted communities, including shelter and water purification supplies, in line with the Government of Vanuatu’s priorities.” The funding will also support the Australian Humanitarian Partnership with “leading Australian NGOs, to deliver additional essential, targeted and effective humanitarian assistance to local communities impacted by the cyclone.” Wong and Conroy also noted that “Australia is also working closely with France and New Zealand through the FRANZ humanitarian coordination mechanism, which coordinates support from the three partners at the request of Pacific partners.” Wong further emphasised that “in times of crisis, the people and the Governments in the Pacific can always rely on Australia, as a member of the Pacific family, to support their response.”

On 27 October Minister for Trade Don Farrell travelled to Japan to represent Australia at the G7 Trade Ministers’ Meeting in Osaka, the first time Australia has been invited to attend as an outreach partner. Farrell participated in “a number of sessions addressing how the G7 and partners can work together on supply chain resilience, economic security, sustainable trade, and support for the rules-based multilateral trading system.” While in Japan, Farrell met with European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis “to progress outstanding issues in the Australia-EU free trade negotiations, pressing for the best possible outcome for our producers, our businesses, our workers, and our consumers.”

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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