Government ministers to meet with Australian counterparts in Portsmouth for defence and trade talks

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HIGH-PROFILE government ministers will be meeting with Australian politicians in Portsmouth tomorrownote-0 for defence and trade talks.

Foreign secretary James Cleverly and defence secretary Ben Wallace will be speaking with their counterparts at the Spinnaker Tower. They will discuss long-term co-operation in the Indo-Pacific, as well as broader collaboration on climate, security and trade.

Ahead of the talks, Mr Cleverly said: ‘Australia is our close and valued defence partner, with historic ties spanning the decades.

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Foreign secretary James Cleverly Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images.Foreign secretary James Cleverly Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images.
Foreign secretary James Cleverly Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images.

‘The Australian armed forces are providing vital training for the brave Ukrainian men and women here in the UK, learning the skills they will need to return and defend their country.

’We are also progressing our collaboration over the Aukus programme, promoting security and prosperity across the Indo-Pacific.’

Australian foreign minister Penny Wong and defence minister Richard Marles, who is also the deputy prime minister, are in Britain for the annual meeting between ministers, which is dubbed ‘Aukmin’.

Following the UK discussions, the group will visit Salisbury Plain to see Australian and UK troops training Ukrainian soldiers, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said.

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Defence secretary Ben Wallace. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images.Defence secretary Ben Wallace. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images.

The joint training programme involves forces from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, Lithuania, and the Netherlands. it is part of an ‘acceleration of efforts’ by the UK and allies to aid Ukraine in defeating the invading Russian force, according to officials.

Mr Cleverly said: ‘The UK and Australia are the best of mates and for over a century we have been hard-headed champions of freedom and democracy.

‘In an increasingly volatile world, we are pursuing a forward-looking agenda with Australia as a trusted partner and friend.

‘Together we are promoting prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific, boosting trade, and pursuing our vital climate targets.’

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The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, published in 2021, announced a UK ‘tilt’ towards the Indo-Pacific.

London and Canberra are working closely together on defence, with a three-way Aukus pact between the UK, Australia and the US signed in September 2021 set to deliver nuclear-powered submarine capability to the Commonwealth country.

Officials said ministers would ‘take stock of progress’ on Aukus as well as reviewing work towards ratifying the UK’s bilateral free trade agreement with Australia, which is expected to come into force in spring.