The annual AUSMIN talks between the United States and Australia wrapped up on Tuesday with the two allies reaffirming their close ties but with Australia saying it goes its own way when it comes to dealing with China, which is a major trade partner for Australia. Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds flew to the US to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper. The talks focused on growing tensions with China, conducting further exercises in the South China Sea and the two sides discussed a US-funded military fuel reserve scheduled to be built in Darwin.
China was the main focus of the talks and both parties criticised China for its recent crackdown on Hong Kong and both sides agreed to work to counter state-backed disinformation campaigns. The Australian side however, pushed back against US efforts to force Australia to conduct assertive freedom-of-navigation exercises in the South China Sea. Australia’s Reynolds told reporters such exercises were “subject of discussion” but that “our approach remains consistent, we will continue to transit through the region in accordance with international law”. Payne went a step further and said while Australia had much in common with the US, “we make our decisions, our own judgements in the Australian national interest and about upholding our security, our prosperity and our values.” Australia is set to host the annual AUSMIN talks in 2021.
AUSMIN 2020 Global Health Security Statement
As part of the 2020 Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN), the two countries have agreed on an AUSMIN Global Health Security Statement, which commits them to strengthening health cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in 2020 and beyond. The statement, which has been developed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the United States Department of State, builds on Australia’s Health Security Initiative for the Indo-Pacific region, and the United States’ Global Health Security Strategy. Australia and the United States will continue to work with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to accelerate the development and distribution of vaccines, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to improve vaccine access in the world’s poorest countries. In addition to the immense health and social impact, the IMF has projected that the COVID-19 pandemic will cost the world US$9 trillion dollars over the next two years. Australia remains committed to participation in regional and global health forums, including with the United States. The full text of the statement can be found here.