On 21 January 2022, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women Senator the Hon Marise Payne and Minister for Defence the Hon Peter Dutton MP hosted the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs the Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP and Secretary of State for Defence the Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP for the Australia-UK Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN).
Progressing our modern, dynamic and enduring strategic partnership
Ministers reaffirmed the vital importance of the bilateral relationship, underpinned by our long history, our shared values and recognition of common interests. Ministers resolved that as the international environment grows more complex and challenging, so our partnership must evolve and deepen to meet those challenges and seize the opportunities of our time.
Both countries reaffirmed their commitment to work together to respond to growing threats to security and stability, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, including in the Indo-Pacific region. They agreed to intensify our efforts to protect and strengthen international rules and norms, including through the UN and the Commonwealth. Australia and the UK will continue to champion universal human rights, the rule of law and the international rules-based order that has underpinned decades of stability and prosperity.
Ministers committed to strengthen our collaboration with other trusted partners to meet global challenges. In that context, Ministers also welcomed the trilateral AUKUS enhanced security partnership between Australia, the UK, and the United States that will significantly deepen trilateral cooperation on a range of defence capabilities. As set out in the 15/16 September 2021 Joint Leaders’ Statement, further trilateral collaboration will enhance our joint capabilities and interoperability with a focus on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities. Our AUKUS partnership is consistent with our international obligations and unwavering commitment to global peace and stability.
As the first initiative under AUKUS, the principals affirmed their commitment to the shared ambition to support Australia to acquire conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy and to bring the capability into service at the earliest possible date. They welcomed the signing in November 2021 of an agreement on the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information.
Australia and the UK reaffirm our unshakeable commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and to the highest standards of nuclear safety and security, as our countries work with the United States to pursue the optimal pathway for the delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine capability for Australia. We look forward to continued engagement with our international partners and the IAEA as we progress this initiative.
Ministers affirmed the vital importance of the Five Eyes cooperation on shared security challenges and the continued importance of collaboration with relevant international security organisations.
Ministers also applauded the conclusion of an ambitious, comprehensive and modern Free Trade Agreement, and for the UK the first entirely new FTA negotiated since leaving the European Union. They recognised its capacity for stimulating innovation, economic growth and building secure supply chains in both nations. Australia welcomed the progress made by the UK toward its accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as a priority of the CPTPP membership. Both sides looked forward to continuing to work at pace on the accession process, reflecting the importance of advancing the CPTPP’s high-standard rules and promoting free trade and open and competitive markets.
Ministers recalled the UK-Australia Vaccine Partnership agreement to share eight million doses and acknowledged the substantial benefits derived from the effort. They reaffirmed their commitment to deliver an ambitious Seasons of Culture program.
Deepening strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific
Ministers agreed to strengthen our collaboration in the Indo-Pacific. Australia welcomed the UK’s Indo-Pacific Tilt, as conveyed in the UK’s 2021 Integrated Review, reaffirming the UK’s long-term commitment to the region. They expressed support for the growing engagement of European partners in the region.
Australia welcomed the UK’s expanded diplomatic presence in the Pacific and its renewed membership of the Pacific Community (SPC). Ministers committed to deepening practical collaboration to support Pacific resilience, security and sovereignty. They agreed to work together to help increase the region’s capacity to analyse climate security issues, including through Pacific regional security architecture. The UK and Australia welcomed their respective financial contributions to India’s ‘Infrastructure for Resilient Island States’ (IRIS) initiative launched at COP26.
The UK welcomed Australia’s work with India, Japan and the United States through the Quad in supporting Indo-Pacific countries to respond to the region’s most pressing challenges, including on COVID-19 vaccines, critical and emerging technologies, and infrastructure. Ministers noted that the Quad’s positive, practical agenda aligned with many of the UK’s Indo-Pacific priorities and efforts to support regional stability.
Ministers underscored the importance of maritime security, ocean health and sustainable blue economies. They committed to strengthening existing support for regional countries to respond to pressing maritime challenges in the region.
Ministers recognised the need for infrastructure that is high-standard and transparent to drive growth, enhance connectivity and achieve development goals in the Indo-Pacific region. In this context, the UK and Australia agreed to a new Strategic Infrastructure and Development Dialogue to support closer collaboration on infrastructure investments in the Indo-Pacific. Ministers noted that this will be complemented by closer cooperation between Australian and UK financing instruments, including British International Investment, UK Export Finance, Export Finance Australia, the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific, and Partnerships for Infrastructure, and the Private Infrastructure Development Group; and joint membership of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, consulting closely with regional partners.
Ministers affirmed their continued commitment to expanding access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in the region and globally, including through the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC). Ministers underlined the importance of these efforts in supporting countries to meet the needs of their populations, and encouraged transparency from all countries in response to emerging variants.
Australia committed to support the UK’s deployment of offshore patrol vessels, HMS Spey and HMS Tamar, to the Indo-Pacific. The UK noted the patrol vessels would contribute to it re-establishing a persistent Indo-Pacific presence. The deployment will support Pacific Island countries undertaking maritime domain awareness activities in the Pacific during 2022 and will strengthen the UK’s defence cooperation with Indo-Pacific partners. Ministers also agreed to increase coordination and planning for combined activities between the Australian Defence Forces and the British Armed Forces in the Indo-Pacific, including the UK embedding a liaison officer from Permanent Joint Headquarters within Australia’s Headquarters Joint Operations Command.
Supporting regional stability through a positive vision and posture
Ministers renewed their support for an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific region in which the sovereign rights of all nations are respected. They reaffirmed their commitment to working with partners to shape a region underpinned by rules and norms and that is free from coercion, and where disputes are settled peacefully and in accordance with international law.
Ministers welcomed the enhancement of our countries’ relationships with ASEAN, including the establishment of an ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and the UK’s new status as an official ASEAN Dialogue Partner. Australia and the United Kingdom strongly support ASEAN centrality, ASEAN-led regional architecture, and practical implementation of ASEAN’s Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
Ministers underscored grave concern about the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in Myanmar and its implications for regional stability. They called on the Myanmar military to immediately cease violence against civilians; engage in constructive, inclusive dialogue; end the targeting of legitimately elected leaders; and release all those arbitrarily detained, including Australian Professor Sean Turnell. They also reiterated their call on all states to immediately cease the transfer of arms and equipment to the Myanmar military and its representatives. Both sides reiterated their support for ASEAN’s leading role in responding to the crisis in Myanmar and called on Myanmar to fulfill its commitment to implement fully ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus.
Ministers underlined the importance of countries being able to exercise their maritime rights and freedoms in the South China Sea consistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), including freedom of navigation and overflight. Both sides reiterated their strong opposition to actions that raise tensions, including the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia and efforts to disrupt other countries’ utilisation of their offshore resources. They reiterated that the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal decision is final and binding on the parties. They emphasised that any Code of Conduct must fully accord with international law, in particular UNCLOS, not prejudice the rights or interests of States under international law or undermine existing inclusive regional architecture. Ministers underlined that maritime claims, and the implementation of domestic legislation including China’s Coast Guard Law and Maritime Traffic Safety Law, must be consistent with UNCLOS.
Ministers underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encouraged the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues without the threat or use of force or coercion. They expressed support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organisations, as a member where statehood is not a prerequisite and as an observer or guest where it is.
Ministers expressed grave concerns about credible reports of severe and egregious human rights violations in Xinjiang, including restrictions on freedom of religion, mass surveillance, large-scale extra-judicial detentions, forced labour and forced birth control. Both sides called on China to grant urgent, meaningful access for independent observers including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Ministers also expressed continued grave concern about Hong Kong. They agreed that imposition of the National Security Law, overhaul of the electoral system and suppression of media freedoms have fundamentally undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms and eliminated any meaningful political opposition. They urged China to act in accordance with its international obligations including those guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Defending international rules and norms and our liberal democratic values
Ministers agreed to strengthen cooperation to uphold human rights across the world. They agreed to closer engagement on modern slavery – further refining our world-leading approach to supply chain transparency and leveraging it to drive a global agenda.
The UK welcomed Australia’s modernised autonomous sanctions regime. Ministers committed to increase sanctions collaboration bilaterally, and with like-minded partners. They agreed that the targeted use of sanctions is a critical tool in raising the costs of malign activity, including under thematic regimes with respect to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, serious human rights abuses and violations, malicious cyber activity and serious corruption, as well as under our country-based regimes.
Ministers reaffirmed our strong support for countering state-backed disinformation. They noted that disinformation undermines trust in governments, erodes social cohesion, is used by certain states and other actors to undermine liberal and democratic values and has been used to foment crises, including damaging the global COVID-19 response. The UK and Australia committed to undertaking joint activity to build resilience to disinformation in the Indo-Pacific in close partnership with like-minded countries in the region.
Ministers expressed concern about politically motivated arbitrary arrest, detention and sentencing of foreign nationals. They reaffirmed that the right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention is guaranteed in international law. The UK and Australia will work together and with international partners and through multilateral fora to advance the principles of the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations.
Ministers agreed on expectations of the Taliban regime to provide safe passage for those who want to leave Afghanistan, protect against terrorism, safeguard the human rights of all Afghans, particularly women, girls and minorities, and allow unhindered humanitarian access.
Ministers agreed to deepen cooperation to advance gender equality and the rights of women and girls. This will include exploring opportunities for the prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls, including measures to tackle sexual violence in conflict and to prevent gender-based violence in the Indo-Pacific through knowledge sharing, strengthening gender data and policy dialogue, supporting women’s human rights defenders and cooperating on Australian and UK initiatives. Ministers welcomed UK plans to host a conference on preventing sexual violence in conflict in late 2022 as an opportunity to focus international attention on this important issue and advance the women’s peace and security agenda.
Strengthening resilience at home and overseas
To tackle the strategic challenges and opportunities presented by technology, Ministers welcomed the new UK-Australia Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership. Underscored by a shared commitment to liberal democratic values, this partnership will project a positive technology vision for the world by strengthening global supply chains and harnessing technology to solve global challenges and build resilience in sensitive sectors of our economies.
Ministers underscored the importance of building more secure, resilient and sustainable supply chains, including in critical minerals and particularly rare earths and battery minerals. They committed to driving greater links between the two countries’ private sectors, focused on connecting stakeholders at key points of the supply chain to bolster two-way trade and investment.
Taking meaningful action to counter climate change
Australia and the UK reaffirmed their commitment to drive ambitious action to address climate change and its impacts, including through implementation of the Glasgow Climate Pact and the Paris Agreement, to keep 1.5 degrees of warming within reach, strengthen adaptation and resilience, and mobilise finance.
Both sides agreed to work together to accelerate the development of technologies essential to delivering net zero by 2050, including through our joint Low Emissions Technology Partnership and the Glasgow Breakthroughs on hydrogen, steel, power and road transport.
Ministers and Secretaries emphasised their strong support for efforts to facilitate clean energy transitions in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. Recognising the importance of developing and preserving diverse, reliable and competitive clean energy supply chains, they welcomed Australia hosting an Indo-Pacific Clean Energy Supply Chain Forum in mid-2022.
Modernising and strengthening the multilateral system
Ministers committed to working together to ensure key multilateral institutions are effective, transparent, open and accountable to member states, seeking reform where necessary to deliver maximum impact and value for money. They committed to protecting core principles of the multilateral system and promote transparency, including in the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council and advance qualified candidates. Ministers committed to maintaining their principled position in multilateral fora to oppose anti-Israel bias.
Ministers reaffirmed their strong commitment to global health reform to build a more agile and responsive global health system, with a sustainably funded World Health Organization (WHO) at its core. They committed to work together to focus negotiations around a new Pandemic Instrument to support preparedness and response. This will aim to strengthen the WHO, enhance global surveillance with a One Health approach and improve pandemic prevention at the national, regional and global levels.
Ministers reaffirmed their support for the rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organization at its core, and expressed concern regarding practices that undermine this system. Both agreed to foster global economic resilience and support trade diversification, and to oppose the use of coercive economic policies and practices.
Strengthening defence, deterrence and countering malign threats
Ministers expressed deep concern with Russia’s military build-up on the border with Ukraine. They reiterated their absolute support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and again called for Russia to take steps to de-escalate the current tensions and return to diplomacy.
Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate on counterterrorism. They pledged to counter narratives by extremist groups driven by events in Afghanistan, Africa and the rise in Extreme Right Wing Terrorism. They committed to continue to work together with Indo-Pacific partner countries to address the evolving challenges presented by terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms. This will include strengthening our practical co-operation on investigation and disruption of terrorist activity and travel, including through capacity building activities at the Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation in Indonesia, and taking concerted action with social media platforms to prevent terrorist use of the internet.
Ministers expressed deep concern that malicious use of cyberspace and critical technologies challenges the rules-based international order and poses clear risks to global security and prosperity. They undertook to raise the costs for malicious activity and reinforce the rules, standards, ethics and norms on the use of cyberspace and critical technologies to maintain international peace and stability.
Ministers noted the strength of the defence relationship between Australia and the UK, which is underpinned by a formal Military Cooperation Framework. After reviewing this Framework, the Ministers agreed to improve cooperation in the area of cyber and cyber training. This included agreeing to further exchanges of specialist cyber personnel and increasing bilateral participation in one another’s respective cyber exercises.
They recognised that the operational effectiveness of our relationship is underpinned by the strength of our cooperation on science, technology, strategic capabilities, and defence industrial base collaboration. To support this, they agreed to convene a fourth Australia-UK Defence Industry Dialogue.
Noting the increasing risk of tension within the Indo-Pacific region, the Ministers also agreed to undertake a series of tabletop exercises testing and improving each government’s capacity to respond to critical issues in the Indo-Pacific. They agreed to deepen information-sharing to enhance situational awareness and coordination in the event of a regional crisis.