Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce today a major foreign policy shift towards the South-West Pacific region to shore up infrastructure projects and diplomatic relations.
According to the Australian Financial Review, the Prime Minister will commit a $2 billion regional infrastructure fund and a $1 billion in export assistance, along with five new embassies to focus on foreign policy in a region where China wishes to spread its influence.
With Foreign Minister Marise Payne in Beijing meeting with her Chinese counterpart and Mr Morrison scheduled to meet China’s leaders at the East Asia Summit in Singapore, the Prime Minister has admitted to taking the South-West region “for granted”.
“My government is returning the Pacific it where it should be – front and centre of Australia’s strategic outlook, foreign policy and personal connections, including at the highest levels of government,” he will say in a regional “step up” speech in Townsville.
The government rejected that either the “step up” in the South-West Pacific were motivated by China.
“It’s part of a larger vision of Australia as a force for good in the Pacific, working with others to ensure our region is secure, stable and sovereign,” Mr Morrison will say.
Regional Infrastructure Fund
$2 billion in aid money and long-term loans will be pledged to establish an Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP) which will be used for preferred infrastructure projects in the region in water, telecommunications and transport.
Export Assistance Boost
The export assistance boost comes in the form of a$1 billion increase in the budget of Efic, Australia’s export financing agency, to encourage Australian businesses to invest more in the region, especially in infrastructure.
Mr Morrison and his government are working on rebuilding the relationship with Beijing amid claims it deteriorated under Malcolm Turnbull, but Mr Morrison also acknowledged last week Australia must navigate a “testing” and a higher degree of strategic competition between the United States and China.