Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne is abroad for two weeks shoring up Australian interests amid the pandemic and beyond.
Payne’s tour includes London, Geneva, and Washington D.C. for minister-level meetings with foreign counterparts. She’ll first visit London in May to attend the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ meeting for strategic discussions ahead of the higher-level G7 Leaders’ meeting in June, where Australia has been invited.
“We will discuss critical issues on advancing open societies and promoting global democratic values. Our talks will also address how to ensure equitable vaccine access availability and the promotion of prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific,” Payne said in a statement.
The June G7 Leaders’ meeting will be attended by the traditional G7 nations, along with additional invitees Australia, India, Korea, South Africa, and Secretary-General of ASEAN.
Australia has endured vaccine supply issues with Europe recently, where doses have been diverted and prioritised for Europeans.
In April, the European Union (EU) denied accusations it had stopped 3.1 million vaccine doses from being shipped to Australia, after Italy, backed by the EU, blocked 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from being shipped to Australia.
Payne will also hold bilateral meetings with UK ministers to deepen the Australia-UK ties post-Brexit. Meeting with the foreign ministers of France and India will be held to also discuss strengthening the trilateral relationship.
In Geneva, Switzerland, where the UN Human Rights Council is located, Payne will meet with representatives from multilateral organisations on issues such as the COVID-19 response and key humanitarian and human rights issues.
After the Europe visit, Payne will embark on a trip to Washington D.C. for the Australian government’s first “ministerial, in-person consultations” with the Biden administration.
“The ANZUS alliance, which marks its 70th anniversary this year, has never been more central to Australia’s interests,” she said. “My discussions will focus on the work of Australia and the United States individually and together to support the resilience of the Indo-Pacific region, as we address the COVID-19 induced health and economic crises, and intensifying strategic competition.”
The trip is amid international concern over the Chinese regime’s increasingly aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific, with the EU setting out a new plan to counter Beijing’s rising power in the region and Australian officials warning about the prospect of war.