20 March 2024

Cameron to emphasise ‘enduring bonds’ on visit to Australia

20 March 2024

David Cameron is set to underline the UK’s bond with Australia on his first visit to the country as Foreign Secretary.

The former prime minister is due to attend the annual Australia-UK ministerial meetings (Aukmin) alongside Defence Secretary Grant Shapps as the UK seeks to deepen its partnership with one of its closest allies in the Indo-Pacific.

The pair will meet with Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese, foreign minister Penny Wong and defence minister Richard Marles in Canberra and Adelaide to discuss trade ties and “take stock” of the Aukus defence partnership with the US.

The pact, announced in 2021, involves co-operation in a number of security areas in order to deter aggression by China, most notably in providing nuclear-powered attack submarines to Australia.

But the deal has encountered some difficulties, with a budget proposal in the US that would scale back the number of submarines it plans to build in the coming years, while the location of a proposed submarine base in Australia has become the focus of fierce arguments involving the Government, trade unions and environmental groups.

In addition to emphasising the importance of the Aukus alliance, Lord Cameron is expected to push for the ratification of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which the UK agreed to join last year, and meet with Australian investors to encourage support for the UK’s energy transition.

The two foreign ministers will also sign a memorandum of understanding on preventing the escalation of gender-based violence in the Pacific.

Ahead of the visit, the Foreign Secretary said: “The UK and Australia have strong and enduring bonds which have never been more important than they are today.

“Our relationship is a point of stability in a fast-changing, dangerous and uncertain world. Those ties, that understanding of one another, allow us to work closely on our joint priorities and face up to global challenges.”

Both Lord Cameron and Mr Shapps are also expected to discuss security issues with their Australian counterparts, emphasising co-operation on Ukraine and pushing for an “immediate humanitarian pause” in Gaza.

Mr Shapps is due to meet defence companies to discuss greater co-operation between government and industry, and lay a wreath at the Australian War Memorial.

He said: “The UK and Australia fought side-by-side 80 years ago against tyranny on the beaches of Normandy. Today our two great nations continue to stand together to secure peace and prosperity the world over.

“We’re facing the challenges of a more dangerous world together, and through partnerships like Aukus and our continued support to Ukraine, we’re defending our freedoms and shared values.”

The visit is part of Lord Cameron’s trip to the Indo-Pacific region, which has already seen him meet with the Thai prime minister as he seeks to deepen relationships in an area that has become a strategic priority for the UK.

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