By Alistair Smout
LONDON – Australia’s foreign and defence ministers will discuss trade and security on a two-day trip to Britain for an annual bilateral summit this week, as London looks to build its influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
The talks will cover Indo-Pacific security, continued support for Ukraine, and AUKUS – the deal between the United States, Britain and Australia to provide Australia with technology for conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarines.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Defence Minister Richard Marles will meet their British counterparts in London, before observing British troops training Ukrainian soldiers in southern England later on Wednesday. They will hold further talks and a press conference on Thursday.
“Together we are promoting prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific, boosting trade, and pursuing our vital climate targets,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.
Both Britain and Australia are seeking to bolster relations in the Pacific as China’s influence grows, including a security pact between China and Solomon Islands struck last year.
Britain and Australia have also agreed a trade deal, expected to come into effect in the coming months, while Britain is also in talks to accede to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a 9 trillion pound ($11.08 trillion) free trade arrangement in the region.
Trade department minister Greg Hands on Wednesday also begins a three-day trip to Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore for trade talks on the impact of Britain joining the deal.
“Joining CPTPP will add even more economic clout to this exciting and dynamic trade alliance, helping it grow to 11 pounds trillion or from 12 to 15% of global GDP,” Hands said.
“This visit will also strengthen our bilateral trade relationships with Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.”
($1 = 0.8120 pounds)