Australian Outlook

In this section

9 December 2022: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

09 Dec 2022
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese welcomes Finnish PM Sanna Marin to Sydney; Marles and Wong travel to the US for AUSMIN and Japan for the Australia-Japan 2+2; Wong hosts Nanaia Mahuta in Canberra; and more.

On 2 December, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese welcomed his Finnish counterpart, Prime Minister Sanna Marin, to Sydney. The leaders “discussed a range of issues reflecting the breadth of their common interests and values” and “reaffirmed the warm and productive relationship between Finland and Australia, underpinned by a common vision based on equality, trust and shared values.” They “reinforced Australia’s close partnership with the European Union, as highlighted by the entry into force of the Australia-EU Framework Agreement in October 2022” and discussed the importance of “defending an open, free, fair and resilient multilateral rules-based trading system.” The Prime Ministers also “condemned Russia’s war of aggression” which they referred to as “a clear violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.” They further discussed the “critical importance of the multilateral system, with the UN as its cornerstone that underpins the rules-based order, for ensuring global security, stability and prosperity” and their commitment to “multilateral cooperation to find solutions to the most pressing global challenges.” Moreover, they stated that as Consultative Parties to the Antarctic Treaty, Australia and Finland “are committed to upholding the rules and norms of the Antarctic Treaty system” and “share a firm interest in international cooperation to maintain Antarctica as a place of peace, science and environmental protection.”

Albanese announced on 5 December that he will lead a delegation to Papua New Guinea from 12 to 13 December, as the two nations “approach the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations following Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975.” The visit is the first such visit by an Australian Prime Minister to Papua New Guinea since 2018, and will result in the first in-person leaders’ talks since 2019, when Prime Minister Marape visited Australia. Albanese will join his counterpart Prime Minister James Marape for the Annual Leaders’ Dialogue in Port Moresby. The two leaders will also travel to Wewak, on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, to visit the final resting place of the founding Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare. Albanese noted that “Australia and Papua New Guinea are close neighbours and even closer friends” and that the two nations’ “deep ties are underpinned by a common history, shared values and continued collaboration.”

On 3 December, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong, noted that they will travel to the United States for the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) on 6 December and Japan for the Australia-Japan Foreign Minister and Defence Ministerial Consultations (2+2) on 9 December. The Ministers noted that Australia “is committed to working closely with the United States and Japan to foster an Indo-Pacific that is peaceful, stable and prosperous, and in which sovereignty is respected.” While in the United States, Marles will also participate in an AUKUS Defence Ministers’ meeting with his AUKUS counterparts – the first trilateral in-person Defence Ministers’ Meeting following the AUKUS announcement – where the Ministers will “progress developments in advanced capabilities, and discuss the optimal pathway for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines”. Marles noted that he “the current challenging strategic circumstances mean that alignment between our international partners, including the United States and Japan, has never been stronger, or more important.” Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton also travelled to New York with Marles from 3 to 6 December, to co-open the Scale Facilitation and Recharge Industries Manhattan Office alongside Marles.

Following AUSMIN on 6 December in Washington, D.C., Wong, Marles, and their US counterparts, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III issued a joint press release. The Secretaries and Ministers “noted that the US-Australia Alliance and partnership have never been stronger, or more vital to regional peace and prosperity” and “committed to advancing a stable, rules-based international order where difficulties are resolved peacefully and without coercion, and where states cooperate transparently to address shared challenges.” Moreover, they committed to “deepening their cooperation to strengthen and reform the multilateral system to address the climate crisis; protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy, and gender equity and equality; and advance the rules of the road for technology, cyberspace, trade, and commerce.” The Secretaries and Ministers also “decided to evolve their defen[c]e and security cooperation to ensure that they are equipped to deter aggression, counter coercion, and make space for sovereign decision making.” They “emphasi[s]ed the importance of all states being able to exercise rights and freedoms consistent with international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea” and expressed concern about China “asserting excessive maritime claims that are inconsistent with international law.” Moreover, the Secretaries and Ministers “reiterated Taiwan’s role as a leading democracy in the Indo-Pacific region, an important regional economy, and a key contributor to critical supply chains” and “shared opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo.”

On 2 December, Wong welcomed Aotearoa New Zealand’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, to Canberra for Australia-Aotearoa New Zealand Foreign Minister Consultations. The Ministers acknowledged the “unique strength” of the bilateral relationship and “reaffirmed the shared values, common outlook and close people-to-people links that underpin [the] partnership.” They reaffirmed the “preeminent role of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and other Pacific regional institutions” and “committed to support Cook Islands in its capacity as incoming chair of the PIF.” They also welcomed “increased engagement in the Pacific among development partners, including through the recently-formed Partners in the Blue Pacific Initiative.” Moreover, they “exchanged perspectives on elevating First Nations and Māori voices in foreign policy and agreed this is an area of substantial national significance for both countries” and “agreed to continue to work together to encourage indigenous collaboration across the Tasman and regionally, including through the Indigenous Collaboration Arrangement and Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement.”

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts travelled to Morocco, Ghana and South Africa this week to “advance Australia’s foreign policy, security and economic interests in Africa”. Watts’ visit is the first visit to the African continent by an Australian Foreign Minister or Assistant Foreign Minister since 2016 and forms part of the Australian Government’s “reinvigorati[on]” of its relationships in Africa. During his visit, Watts will “advocate for our shared interests in a rules-based international system and partnerships to help combat global terrorism, violent extremism and the threats of cyber security and transnational crime”, and will “discuss practical climate change action and identify ways to strengthen our cooperation with African partners in agricultural development, renewable energy, and science and technology.” While in Morocco, on 6 December, Watts opened the new Australian Embassy in Rabat, noting that the Embassy is the first in the world “to be build using advanced prefabrication methods”, having been “built in Australia in modules, transported by sea, then stored in Casablanca and then erected and fitted out by local Moroccan artists.” Watts referred to the building as “a symbol of the growing friendship between our two countries” and “a perfect example of the good things that can happen when Australians and Moroccans work together.”

This week, Minister for Trade Don Farrell travelled to Europe to visit Paris, Brussels, and Berlin, in order to “advocate for the conclusion of important negotiations for an ambitious and comprehensive Australia-European Union (EU) trade agreement.” He noted that the agreement is “one of our highest trade policy priorities” and “will help diversity our trade relationships, expand opportunities for Australian exporters, and support greater investment in Australia.” He will also travel to Bern, Switzerland, to open the new Australian Embassy, “a significant milestone” in the bilateral relationship. Moreover, Farrell will visit London, where he will “advance the Australia-UK free trade agreement, highlighting that Australia has completed all domestic requirements to implement the agreement” and will “encourage the UK to finalise [the] remaining steps to ensure [the agreement] enters into force early next year.”

On 7 December, Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy visited the Kingdom of Tonga “to strengthen our deep and longstanding partnership and to learn about Tonga’s priorities first-hand.” Conroy will meet with Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku, as well as members of his Cabinet, the private sector and civil society to “discuss development and regional priorities.” He will “reinforce Australia’s commitment to Tonga’s economic recovery following the devastating impacts of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami, and the ongoing effects of COVID-19” and will “focus on ensuring our development partnership is meeting Tonga’s needs … includ[ing] health and gender programs, infrastructure, climate change, policing and security, training workers and labour mobility.”

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.

This article is published under a Creative Commons License and may be republished with attribution.