Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd will depart today for key European capitals and the African Union meeting in Ethiopia.
The centrepiece of the visit will be the Australia-UK Ministerial consultations, AUKMIN. The UK is a key security partner for Australia, and AUKMIN is the premier forum for Australian and UK Foreign and Defence Ministers to advance strategic, foreign policy, security and defence matters of common interest.
While in Europe, Mr Rudd will visit France, Germany and the headquarters of the EU in Brussels to discuss the European economic crisis and its implications for Australia. The continued drift in the Eurozone is eroding global growth prospects and affecting the supply of credit worldwide, constraining business investment and potentially affecting interest rates in Australia.
In France at the invitation of Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, Mr Rudd will also discuss longstanding intersecting interests in the Pacific. France and Australia have a rapidly expanding dialogue on major global issues — most recently, on developments in the Middle East and, through cooperation in the G20, on the world economy. In Germany, Mr Rudd and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will launch a program of activities to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Australian-German diplomatic relations.
In Brussels, he will also address the North Atlantic Council, NATO's principal decision-making body, on security challenges posed by Asia's rise and Australia's ambitions for its partnership with NATO, foremost in Afghanistan.
Mr Rudd will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland which will focus closely on prospects for the global economy in the light of the economic crisis facing Europe as well as the continued strong growth in Asia. Mr Rudd will participate in discussion on the Eurozone crisis as well as shaping Mexico's agenda as chair for the G20 in 2012.
On the 26 January, Mr Rudd will also travel to Ethiopia to attend the African Union Executive Council meeting. Australia's economic interests in Africa are growing strongly, with more than $20 billion invested by Australian companies in the mining and resource sector in Africa.
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