Boris boosts historic UK-Australia partnership

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Photo from June 2021 when Prime Minister Boris Johnson met Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 10 Downing Street. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

The United Kingdom and Australia have agreed new measures to boost bilateral cooperation and work more closely together in the Indo-Pacific after a leaders conference call last night.

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Rt. Hon. Boris Johnson MP, and the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, met virtually on 16 February (GMT).

The leaders reaffirmed the unique relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom, built on shared values and common interests, and sustained by the deep bonds between our peoples. They reiterated their commitment to support a rules-based international order free from coercion, where the sovereign rights of all nations are respected and disputes are settled peacefully and in accordance with international law.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

The UK and Australia are working together to enhance regional security in the Indo-Pacific, drive innovation in science and green technology and boost opportunities for our businesses and citizens.

Our nations are forging a new partnership from a historic alliance, fit for the next century and grounded in our shared priorities on security, democracy and free and fair trade.

The Prime Ministers discussed the concerning situation on Ukraine’s border. They emphasised their unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. They agreed the need for de-escalation and underscored that any further Russian incursion in Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake and have a stark humanitarian cost.

The Prime Ministers also discussed their countries’ shared commitment to promoting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. They agreed that, together with partners, they would ensure a free, open, inclusive and prosperous region. In that context, the UK committed £25 million to strengthen regional resilience in areas including cyberspace, state threats and maritime security. This complements Australia’s deep and longstanding involvement in regional security. The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to working with ASEAN and other partners in the region to ensure their countries’ support meets the region’s needs.

The leaders pledged to deepen and intensify cooperation across several key pillars.

Trade and Investment

The Prime Ministers applauded the conclusion of an ambitious, comprehensive and modern Free Trade Agreement – the UK’s first entirely new FTA negotiated since leaving the European Union.

They welcomed the opportunities this would bring, and pledged to support strengthened ties between industries to realise these prospects. Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the FTA entering into force as soon as possible so our exporters, producers, workers, businesses and consumers can enjoy the benefits of this gold standard deal.

The Prime Ministers acknowledged and applauded the major bilateral investments between the two countries. Australian superfunds and asset managers have invested tens of billions of pounds in UK infrastructure and renewable energy, supporting the UK’s Net Zero ambition and generating substantial returns for Australian savers and pensioners. They strongly encouraged investors to continue to seek out opportunities.

The leaders highlighted significant progress to support critical minerals supply chains, including through the establishment of a Joint Working Group on critical minerals in 2021.

Australia and the UK are continuing to identify investment opportunities that would bolster Australia’s critical minerals sector and the UK’s manufacturing and energy ambitions, while supporting sustainable governance practices and international standards, research and development, and more resilient supply chains. They announced plans for a joint Australia-UK supply chain resilience capability building initiative which will engage interested countries to develop and improve public sector approaches to managing critical supply chain risks.

The Prime Ministers confirmed their commitment to a free, fair, inclusive and rules-based trade and investment environment and opposed the use of economic coercion. They reaffirmed their resolve to uphold and strengthen the rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its core.

Prime Minister Morrison welcomed progress made by the UK toward accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Both leaders look forward to continuing to work to complete UK accession as soon as possible.

Photo from June 2021 when Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison exchanged penguins and Timtam’s in 10 Downing Street. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

AUKUS

Prime Minister Johnson and Prime Minister Morrison reaffirmed the commitment of Australia and the United Kingdom to AUKUS, working alongside the United States, as a cornerstone of their shared efforts to promote an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific.

Since AUKUS was announced in September 2021, all three partners have made significant progress in their collective endeavour to provide the Royal Australian Navy with a conventional-armed nuclear-powered submarine capability at the earliest possible date.

The Leaders welcomed the entry into force of the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement (ENNPIA) on 8 February 2022, making it possible for the United Kingdom and the United States to share naval nuclear propulsion information with Australia. The agreement demonstrates the commitment of the three AUKUS partners to operating according to the highest standards of nuclear stewardship, in line with their long-standing global leadership on non-proliferation.

Leaders further welcomed the presence in Australia of UK and US officials to provide expert advice on the many facets of nuclear stewardship needed to operate a nuclear powered submarine capability. Significant progress is also being made by AUKUS partners on Advanced Capability collaboration, with officials from the three countries meeting this week in London to discuss cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and additional undersea capabilities.

The Prime Ministers expressed their determination to continue to work closely together, in lockstep with President Biden, to make AUKUS a success, and looked forward to the next set of trilateral discussions at the end of the month in Australia.

Security and Defence

The Prime Ministers recalled the excellent collaboration between the Australian and UK navies, in particular during the UK’s Carrier Strike Group deployment to the Indo-Pacific. They committed to increased joint naval activity in the Indo Pacific: the UK has deployed two Offshore Patrol Vessels to the Indo-Pacific on an enduring basis.

The Prime Ministers committed to build societal awareness and resilience to foreign interference and strengthen our collective toolkits to detect, disrupt and deter current and future hostile activity by state actors, including the use of misinformation and disinformation. They noted that the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) were an important pillar for regional security, and committed to maintain strong cooperation with FPDA partners.

The Leaders committed to deepening cooperation on online safety and security, including: tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse, preventing terrorist use of the internet, and through a future bilateral agreement. The Leaders recognised the economic and social benefits that stem from a safe and secure online environment, as well as the need to proactively mitigate the risks of harm in a rapidly developing technological landscape.

They emphasised their continued commitment to maintaining capabilities vital to the investigation and prosecution of serious crimes, through tightly controlled lawful access to communications content and appropriate safeguards, and collaboration to address emerging threats. Leaders welcomed the Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership to deter and respond to malicious cyber threats.

Climate and Environment

The Prime Ministers reaffirmed the two countries’ shared 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. The UK and Australia have committed to taking action this decade, with Nationally Determined Contributions reflecting their highest possible ambition.

The UK has committed to reducing its emissions at least 68% by 2030 on 1990 levels and Australia has committed to reducing its emissions 26-28% by 2030 on 2005 levels, and is on track to achieve a reduction of up to 35% on 2005 levels by 2030.

Prime Ministers agreed to continue to work together to reach net zero by 2050 and agreed to accelerate the development of technologies essential for reaching this goal through our Clean Technology Partnership, and with other countries through the Glasgow Breakthroughs, Mission Innovation and the Clean Energy Ministerial. They emphasised our strong support for efforts to facilitate inclusive, clean energy transitions in the Indo-Pacific and beyond and agreed to work together through country platforms. Prime Minister Johnson welcomed Australia hosting an Indo-Pacific Clean Energy Supply Chain Forum in mid-2022, to help develop and preserve diverse, resilient and competitive clean energy supply chains.

The Prime Ministers reaffirmed their countries’ commitment to nature based solutions and emphasised support for the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.

Health

The Prime Ministers also set out their determination to overcome the current pandemic and to be better prepared for the future. Leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to expanding access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, — advancing toward vaccinating 70 per cent of the population in all countries by mid-2022 — including through the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) and potential contributions for the upcoming CEPI replenishment. They recommitted to helping build a more responsive and resilient global health system, with a sustainably funded World Health Organization (WHO) at its core.

They committed to work to ensure the new international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response that empowers a stronger, more independent WHO. They reaffirmed support for efforts to identify the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Science and Technology

Leaders recognised the breadth of science and technology cooperation between the two countries, and its importance to their mutual strategic advantage. They acknowledged the first anniversary of the UK-Australia Space Bridge agreement, and successful partnerships across climate, agriculture, cyber-security and communications.

They agreed to enhance the agreement with a UK commitment to £1m for Earth Observation in Agroclimate to support global climate resilience. The Prime Ministers championed wider science and technology collaborations, through a Science Partnerships Series. This Series will bring our research communities closer together to co-create world class innovation and ground breaking science. Leaders agreed to pursue closer cooperation on quantum science and technology, as we develop our own national strategies.

Indo-Pacific cooperation

Building on recent discussions at AUKMIN, Leaders renewed their commitment to an open, inclusive, resilient and prosperous Indo-Pacific and committed to strengthening collaboration in the region. Leaders agreed on the importance of advancing gender equality and the rights of women and girls.

Prime Minister Morrison welcomed the UK’s ‘Indo-Pacific Tilt’ and leaders made clear their long-term commitment to the region. Leaders welcomed the recent publication of Indo-Pacific Strategies by the United States and European Union and reaffirmed their commitment to work with these partners.

The leaders highlighted cooperation between Australia and the United Kingdom in support of Tonga following the recent eruption and tsunami.

The leaders also welcomed deep cooperation with ASEAN, including the establishment of the ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, ASEAN’s first, and the UK’s status as an official ASEAN Dialogue Partner. Leaders reiterated both countries’ strong support for ASEAN centrality, ASEAN-led regional architecture and ASEAN’s outlook on the Indo-Pacific. They expressed grave concerns about the situation in Myanmar and called for the immediate cessation of violence against civilian populations, the release of all those arbitrarily detained, including Australian Professor Sean Turnell, and unhindered humanitarian access. They urged the Myanmar military regime to implement ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus.

Mr Johnson and Mr Morrison expressed grave concerns about credible reports of human rights violations in Xinjiang, and called on China to protect the rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.

Leaders further underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and 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.

The Prime Ministers recognised 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).

The leaders reiterated their strong opposition to any unilateral actions that could escalate tensions and undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order, including militarisation, coercion, and intimidation.

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