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30 April: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

30 Apr 2021
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: the suspension of passenger flights from India, Morrison at Biden’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate, Payne on the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting, and more.

On 27 April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced the temporary pausing of passenger flights from India and the provision of emergency medical supplies due to the nation’s recent surge in COVID-19 cases. Flights will be paused until at least 15 May, and Payne and Morrison have indicated that once flights resume, “vulnerable Australians” will be prioritised. Australia will provide medical supplies to India, including up to 3,000 ventilators, 500,000 P2/N95 masks, 100,000 surgical gowns, 100,000 goggles, 100,000 pairs of gloves and 20,000 face shields.

Morrison virtually attended the Leaders’ Summit on Climate on 22 April convened by United States President Joe Biden, where he stated that “Australia is on the pathway to net zero” and the investment of “around $20 billion to achieve ambitious goals that will bring the cost of clean hydrogen, green steel, energy storage and carbon capture to commercial parity.” At the Summit, Morrison also revealed a new $565.8 million commitment to “back low emissions international technology partnerships and initiatives by co-funding research and demonstration projects.” He stated that “[Australia will] work closely with our friends and neighbours to play our part in the global effort to cut emissions through technology while driving economic growth, creating jobs and pushing down energy costs.”

Morrison and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton announced on 28 April the investment of $747 million to upgrade four key training areas in the Northern Territory to “enable the Australian Defence Force to conduct simulated training exercises and remain battle ready.” The upgrades will be made to four key military training areas and weapon ranges, specifically Robertson Barracks, Kangaroo Flats, Mount Bundey, and Bradshaw. Morrison stated that, “working with the United States and Indo-Pacific neighbours, we will continue to advance Australia’s interests by investing in the Australian Defence Force, particularly across Northern Australia.”

On 25 April, Payne issued a statement on the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting, held in Jakarta on 24 April. She noted that Australia welcomes the five points of consensus reached in the meeting on the situation in Myanmar, including the immediate cessation of violence, the provision of humanitarian assistance, and the commencement of constructive dialogue among all parties involved. Payne stated that “Australia sees ASEAN at the core of an open, stable and resilient Indo-Pacific. It has a critical role to play in charting a course out of the current crisis.” She also noted that Australia will provide $5 million to the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management to provide humanitarian assistance to Myanmar.

Payne virtually attended the 14th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women on 27 April, which “brought together Pacific decision-makers, development partners, research institutions and civil society organisations to discuss the challenges to gender equality in the region, including the impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls.” Following the conference, she announced Australia’s increase in support for regional gender equality through the new Pacific Women Lead program, which will be delivered with Pacific partners and will provide $170 million over 5 years. The program will “focus on women’s leadership and women’s rights including safety, health and economic empowerment.”

On 22 April, Payne and her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta met in Wellington for the biannual Australia-New Zealand Foreign Minister Consultations. The Ministers issued a joint statement on “the importance of promoting our shared interests in an open, resilient and prosperous Indo-Pacific” and reaffirming “their intent to work together to preserve the liberal international order that has underpinned stability and prosperity in the [Indo-Pacific] region.” They also welcomed progress on the Australia-New Zealand Single Economic Market agenda and reflected on the “closeness and importance” of the Australia-New Zealand relationship.

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan, along with his Indian and Japanese counterparts, announced the launch of the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) on 28 April. The Ministers issued a joint statement, noting that the SCRI will involve “sharing best practices on supply chain resilience” and “holding investment promotion events and buyer-seller matching events to provide opportunities for stakeholders to explore the possibility of diversification of their supply chains.” In a separate statement, Tehan stated that “Australia’s supply chains have generally proven resilient, but the pandemic has highlighted the need for greater international cooperation to strengthen supply chains.”

On 22 April, Tehan and his French counterpart Franck Riester issued a joint statement on Tehan’s visit to Paris for the 2nd session of the bilateral dialogue of Trade and Investment, held on 21 April. The Ministers “welcomed the continuing development of … economic and trade relations [between the two nations], despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.” They also reviewed bilateral trade investments and “opportunities in strategic fields, including critical minerals, renewable energy, hydrogen, space and agriculture.” The Ministers further affirmed their support for multilateral institutions, specifically the WTO, as key to ensuring rules-based governance of the international trade system. Finally, they “reaffirmed the importance of the ongoing negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the European Union.”

Tehan also visited Maldives on 25 April, where he met with Speaker of the People’s Majlis and former President Mohamed Nasheed and participated in a roundtable with his ministerial counterparts, “to discuss COVID-19 and the global economic recovery, trade and investment links, and collaboration on education, climate change and environmental challenges.”

On 22 April, Tehan announced that the Morrison Government has reached an agreement “that will ensure Australian wines can access the Canadian market on a level playing field,” following the settlement of Australia’s 2018 World Trade Organization challenge to Canadian wine measures. The settlement has resulted in Canada agreeing “to the phased removal of discriminatory measures imposed by the province of Quebec, which disadvantaged Australian wine producers.” Tehan referred to the agreement as “an important victory for Australian wine makers and rules-based global trade.”

Isabella Keith is an undergraduate student at the Australian National University studying Law and Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She is currently an intern at the AIIA National Office.

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