Australia calling envoys home to reshape foreign policy

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the meeting – involving all its top diplomats from 113 missions – would focus on a broad reset of Australia's approach to international relations and trade.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the meeting – involving all its top diplomats from 113 missions – would focus on a broad reset of Australia's approach to international relations and trade.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY • Australia will call home all of its ambassadors for a meeting, as it reshapes its foreign policy to balance ties with its long-time ally, the United States, and its largest trading partner, China.

It is the first time Canberra is gathering all its top diplomats from 113 missions worldwide.

The aim is to draw up a White Paper to guide Australian diplomacy for the next decade, the first document of its kind since 2003.

"At a time of significant global uncertainty, it is vital that Australia harness the experience and intellect of our most senior diplomats," Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said yesterday in a statement.

She said the meeting later this month would focus on a broad reset of Australia's approach to international relations and trade.

Australia's relations with China have been strained recently by a pushback against foreign investment by an increasingly conservative Parliament in Canberra.

Also, ties with the US hit a low point after a rancorous phone call between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and US President Donald Trump, when they clashed over a planned refugee swap.

Australia's former US envoy, Mr Kim Beazley, who is also a past leader of the opposition Labor Party, said the US relationship was vital because of the amount of investment ploughed into Australia.

"I am more worried in economic terms about Trump discouraging American investment globally than I am about the possibilities of a trade war between the US and China," Mr Beazley told Reuters.

The diplomats will meet in Canberra for two days with Mr Turnbull, Ms Bishop and Trade Minister Steven Ciobo, with the White Paper expected to be delivered around the middle of the year.

Ms Alexandra Oliver of the Sydney-based Lowy Institute think- tank, said a global political shift had challenged traditional foreign policymaking.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2017, with the headline 'Australia calling envoys home to reshape foreign policy'. Print Edition | Subscribe