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14 July 2023: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

This week in Australian foreign affairs: 30 additional Bushmasters for Ukraine, Albanese travels to Berlin to meet with Scholz and NATO Leaders’ Summit in Lithuania, Wong travels to Timor-Leste, diplomatic appointments, and more.

On 12 July, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong jointly announced that Australia will provide 30 additional Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles to Ukraine, “demonstrating our ongoing commitment to their defence against Russia’s aggression.” Albanese met with Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy to “inform him of Australia’s decision to gift 30 additional Bushmasters to Ukraine”, and emphasised that “Australia remains steadfast in its commitment to support Ukraine.” Albanese, Wong and Marles also noted that the Australian Defence Force will deploy a Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail aircraft to Germany “for approximately six months from October to help protect a vital gateway of international humanitarian and military assistance to Ukraine.” They also noted that the deployment includes “up to 100 crew and support personnel”.

Albanese travelled to Europe to first meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, prior to attending the NATO Leaders’ Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania from 11-12 July. Albanese and Scholz met on 10 July to “advance the Australia-Germany relationship.” The leaders “held positive discussions on boosting trade and investment, climate action and clean energy, and our defence and security cooperation.” Albanese also extended an invitation to Chancellor Scholz to visit Australia as a Guest of Government in 2024. They discussed clean energy cooperation, their shared commitment to supporting Ukraine, and witnessed the signing of an in-principle $1 billion arrangement for Australia to supply over 100 Rheinmetall Defence Australia Boxer Heavy Weapon Carriers to Germany, starting in 2025. Albanese referred to the agreement as “one of the biggest defence sales in Australia’s history … worth over $1 billion to the Australian economy in the production and supply of these vehicles.”

While in Berlin, Albanese also addressed the Australia-Germany Business Reception on 11 July. He discussed Australia’s cooperation with Germany on hydrogen as being a testament to Australia’s effort to “transform … into a renewable energy superpower.” He noted that “we’re continuing to explore opportunities to export Australian green hydrogen and critical minerals to Germany — drawing, of course, on both German and Australian technology and know-how.”

On 7 July, Wong travelled to Timor-Leste to meet with newly appointed Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão and his government, and “to reaffirm Australia’s deep and broad friendship with our close partner.” She also met with President José Ramos-Horta and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Bendito Freitas. Wong emphasised that “Australia and Timor-Leste are close neighbours, friends and partners” as well as “equal stakeholders in an open, stable and prosperous region.” She addressed the Timor-Leste Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, where she referred to Australia and Timor-Leste as “the closest of partners” whose “success matters to each other because we share a region and we share a future.” In her address, Wong announced that Australia is increasing our package of support for Timor’s accession to ASEAN and the WTO, by a further $2 million, bringing the total to $8.6 million. She concluded by emphasising that “wherever the future may take our two countries, whatever challenges we may face, I want our friends in Timor-Leste to know that we in Australia will always be with you.”

Wong also travelled to Jakarta this week, to attend the annual ASEAN-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and ASEAN Regional Forum. With ASEAN Foreign Ministers, she will discuss “opportunities to enhance our cooperation under the ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, including on climate change, health security, and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.” At the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and ASEAN Regional Forum, she “will outline Australia’s vision for our region, and how we are working together with ASEAN to address our shared challenges.” Meanwhile, while in Jakarta, Wong will “launch a photo exhibition marking 70 years of Australian scholarships in Indonesia, participate in a discussion with young Indonesians about our shared aspirations for the region and visit a local health centre to affirm Australia and Indonesia’s partnership in health reform.”

On 11 July, Wong made several new diplomatic appointment announcements: David Jessup as Australia’s first resident High Commissioner to the Republic of Maldives; Matt Skelly as Australia’s next High Commissioner to Malta, who will also be accredited to Tunisia; Rachel Moseley as Australia’s next Ambassador to Mexico, who will also be accredited to Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic; Shane Flanagan as Australia’s next Ambassador to Qatar; Brenton Garlick as Australia’s next High Commissioner to Tuvalu; Vanessa Wood as Australia’s next Ambassador for Arms Control and Counter-Proliferation; and James Larsen as Australia’s next Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. All appointees are career officers with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Wong announced on 13 July that the Government “is supporting access to high-quality, safe, and effective medicines in the Pacific and Southeast Asia by investing $13.3 million in new partnerships between the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and governments in our region.” The investment includes $1.3 million towards the Indonesia-Australia Contaminated Medicines and Vaccines Program, “which will help address the systemic regulatory challenges of substandard and falsified medicines.” Wong noted that “improving the health and wellbeing of communities across our region, including through better access to safe and effective medicines, is critical to ensuring our shared prosperity and security.”

On 7 July, Minister for Trade Don Farrell issued a statement announcing the appointment of new Consuls-General in the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Germany: Bryony Hilless will take up the role of Consul-General and General Manager, Middle East and Africa, Christopher Ketter takes up the role of Consul-General and Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner in San Francisco and Kelly Matthews will take up the role of Consul-General and Trade and Investment Commissioner in Frankfurt. Hilless has previously held senior executive roles at Trade and Investment Queensland, and Matthews is currently a Trade and Investment Commissioner in Abu Dhabi. Ketter is a former Labor Senator and is currently Senior Adviser to Marles.

Farrell travelled to Brussels this week “to advance negotiations for a free trade agreement between Australia and the European Union.” While in Brussels, he will meet with his counterpart, Executive Vice-President and European Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, as well as the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski. He noted that “concluding an ambitious trade deal between like-minded partners is important at a time of mounting geo-political uncertainty”, but that “negotiations remain difficult and have reached a point where issues vital to Australia’s national interest must be improved.” Moreover, Farrell stated that he is “prepared to persist even if it means the negotiations extend into the second half of this year.”

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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