Australian Foreign Minister to Visit UK, Switzerland, US to Discuss Vaccine and Indo-Pacific

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne is going abroad for two weeks to shore up Australia’s interests amid the pandemic and beyond ahead of the G7 Leaders’ meeting in June, to which Australia has secured an invite.

Payne’s tour includes stopping in London, Geneva, and Washington D.C. for minister-level meetings with foreign counterparts. She’ll first visit London May 4-5 to attend the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ meeting for major strategic discussions ahead of the G7 Leaders’ meeting in June.

“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 on May 3.

The June G7 Leaders’ meeting will be attended by the G7 nations, along with additional invitees Australia, India, Korea, South Africa, and Secretary-General of ASEAN.

Australia has had trouble recently with vaccine supply issues with Europe, where doses have been priortised for Europeans. In April, the European Union (EU) denied accusations that it had stopped 3.1 million vaccine doses from being shipped to Australia, after Italy, backed by the EU, blocked the export of 250,000 doses of Astra Zeneca vaccine to Australia in March.

While in London, Payne will engage in bilateral meetings with UK ministers to deepen the bilateral relationship post-Brexit, and also with the foreign ministers of France and India to discuss strengthening the trilateral partnership.

The foreign affair minister will then visit Geneva, where the UN Human Rights Council is located, to discuss with multilateral organisations on issues of 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. 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,” she said.

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.

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