PM looks to boost regional ties before crucial summits

Strengthening ties with neighbours in the Indo-Pacific as tensions in the region rise will be on the agenda for the prime minister, ahead of a week-long visit to Asia.

Anthony Albanese will fly out on Tuesday for key talks in Indonesia, the Philippines and India as world leaders gather for crucial summits.

The prime minister will meet with other Asian nations in Jakarta for the ASEAN and East Asia Summit, before travelling for one-on-one talks with Philippines president Ferdinand ‚ÄúBongbong‚ÄĚ Marcos.

He will then head to New Delhi for the G20 summit, being chaired this year by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

While Australia had been seeking to bolster ties with China following the removal of trade tariffs, Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected be at no-show at both international summits.

Regional stability, tensions in the South China Sea and climate change will be on the cards for leaders at the ASEAN and East Asia Summit.

The summits in Indonesia will also be a launching pad for the government’s southeast Asia economic strategy to 2040.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Gatra Priyandita said the emphasis on ASEAN was crucial for Australia to maintain its strategic focus in the region.

‚ÄúAnthony Albanese‚Äôs attendance shows Australia is committed to multilateralism in relation to ASEAN and ASEAN centrality,‚ÄĚ he told AAP.

‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a long-standing argument that ASEAN loses out to regional players (as a forum), and at least the prime minister is trying to address that gap.‚ÄĚ

Mr Albanese will also meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for one-on-one talks, along with leaders from Malaysia and East Timor.

The prime minister will visit the Philippines as Australia and the Asian nation recently bolstered defence ties, with both countries holding military exercises and vowing to boost military patrols.

Dr Priyandita said the closer ties with the Philippines was critical in the wake of Chinese aggression in the contested South China Sea region.

‚ÄúIt signals that Australia is committed to the international rules based order, particularly the rules that centre around conventions at sea,‚ÄĚ he said.

‚ÄúIt demonstrates to us that the network of alliances in the Pacific still matters.‚ÄĚ

Economic headwinds and the global rules based order will also be debated when the leaders gather in India for the G20 summit.

Significant debate is also expected to centre on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the G20’s response, given that Russia remains a member country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not expected to attend, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take his place.

China’s president will also skip the summit, the first time China’s leader has missed the talks.

The country’s premier Li Qiang is expected to attend, but there has been no confirmation whether Mr Albanese will meet him on the sidelines.

The prime minister is hoping to use the visit to the G20 to strengthen ties with India, off the back of his visit to the country earlier this year and Mr Modi’s visit to Sydney in May.

G20 Research Group director John Kirton said climate change would also be a key issue at the summit, along with regional tensions.

‚ÄúThe biggest regional tension with the Indo-Pacific by far is that between China and everyone else,‚ÄĚ he told AAP.

“China’s increasing military claims and expansion against Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and others in the South China Sea have made many G20 members more wary of China.

‚ÄúPresident Xi‚Äôs likely absence, along with Russian president Putin‚Äôs, will make it easier for the other G20 leaders at Delhi to make bigger, bolder decisions on many of the key crises they confront.‚ÄĚ

 

Andrew Brown
(Australian Associated Press)

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