This week in Australian foreign affairs: Frydenberg and Tehan host the inaugural Indonesia-Australia Economic, Trade and Investment Ministers’ Meeting; the Australia-Vietnam Enhanced Economic Engagement Grant; a bilateral Technology Safeguards Agreement with the United States; and more.
On 6 July Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan virtually hosted the inaugural Indonesia-Australia Economic, Trade and Investment Ministers’ Meeting with their Indonesian counterparts. The meeting “highlighted ways in which Australia and Indonesia worked together closely and productively over 2020-21 in the context of rapidly responding to COVID-19.” Tehan stated that Australia and Indonesia “share many interests in the World Trade Organization, APEC and ASEAN,” and that he “[looks] forward to a closer partnership to progress our mutual priorities.” Frydenberg noted that the meeting “[marked] an important development in our economic, trade and investment relationship, which is more significant now as we look to strengthen our cooperation in supporting economic recoveries, both in our own countries and across the region,” and that “there are opportunities for deeper collaboration between our two nations on key global and regional challenges.”
Tehan announced on 1 July that Australia is providing $2.5 million to Vietnam under the Australia-Vietnam Enhanced Economic Engagement Grant. The grant will fund 28 small-scale projects “to create economic opportunities and deepen business cooperation.” The projects include: scaling up the “technology of organic food production, certification, and trade between Vietnam and Australia”; providing female entrepreneurs with “valuable international education”; and helping Australian business to “grow and diversify their exports and supply chains to Vietnam”. Tehan stated that “Australia is working with Vietnam to grow our trade relationship, with an aim to become top ten trade partners and double investment. Strengthening our trade relationship will create jobs and opportunities in both countries.”
On 1 July, Tehan, alongside Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Christian Porter issued a joint statement where they announced that Australia and the United States will commence negotiations on a bilateral Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA). This will build on over 60 years of space collaboration, with the aim of “turbocharging growth in Australia’s civil space sector”. The TSA is designed to “reduce launch costs and open the door to increased collaboration with major US companies.” Payne noted that “Australia is committed to expanding our collaboration [with the US] including supporting NASA’s mission to put the first woman and the next man on the Moon.”
Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, announced on 6 July that Australia will share up to 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with partners in the Pacific and Timor-Leste by mid-2022. This follows Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s commitment at the G7 Summit to sharing at least 20 million vaccine doses with countries in the Indo-Pacific. The Ministers noted that Australia has already shared more than half a million vaccine doses with partners in the Pacific and Timor-Leste since March, and the partnership “builds on [Australia’s] support to the COVAX facility”.
On 6 July at the Indo-Pacific Business Summit hosted by the Indian Ministry for External Affairs, Payne announced the first recipients of the Australia-India Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Partnership (AIIPOIP) grant program. She noted that the AIIPOIP “reiterates Australia’s strong commitment to working with close regional partners in delivering an open, inclusive, resilient, prosperous and rules-based maritime order.” The grants support the Australia-India Joint Declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, which Payne signed with India’s Minister for External Affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in June 2020.
Payne issued a statement on 7 July noting that she had spoken with her Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, and had confirmed that Australia would provide immediate health support to Indonesia as it responds to a “significant surge” in COVID-19 cases. The package includes: $12 million for oxygen-related and other medical equipment, over 40,000 rapid antigen test kits, and 2.5 million AstraZeneca doses this year.
On 4 July, Seselja noted that he will visit Papua New Guinea and the Philippines from 4 to 9 July, in his first visit to the region as Minister for International Development and the Pacific. He stated that in Papua New Guinea, he will meet senior ministers in the Marape administration and “representatives of the business and church communities.” Seselja said that the visit “will aim to deepen our already strong bilateral relationship and take forward our cooperation on health security and infrastructure.” In the Philippines, Seselja plans to meet with Government leaders and “key development assistance partners delivering Australia’s COVID-19 support programs on the ground.”
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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