Secret meeting of world elite in Australia

Some of the world's most powerful political players will touch down in Sydney today ahead of the highly anticipated annual Australia-United States Ministerial Meetings on Sunday.

This year's AUSMIN Summit will be hosted by Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds.

But it comes at a difficult time for the US, as President Donald Trump continues to fan the flames of discord between China, as well as Iran.

The high-level discussions are expected to revolve around strategic, foreign and defence policies in Australia and the US.

Mathias Cormann said
Mathias Cormann said "no decision has been made" to join the US-led coalition. Picture: Sky News

Considering the highly confidential nature of the event - now in it's 34th year - significant planning is done by the host nation each year to ensure top notch security for it's visiting guests.

Ms Payne and Ms Reynolds will host their US counterparts, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Defence Secretary Mark Esper.

In a statement, released this week, Ms Payne said the summit would focus on military-to-military co-operation, terrorism and violent extremism as well as other issues that currently threaten the security of Australia and the US.

"Both Australia and the US are committed to an inclusive region where state sovereignty is respected, and where trade, capital and ideas flow freely," Ms Payne said.


So, what's on the agenda for this year's AUSMIN Summit, and what does Australia stand to gain from Sunday's talks?

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: Kym Smith
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: Kym Smith


The AUSMIN Summit will require some delicate diplomacy from Australia's representatives, as the Trump administration faces the increasing threat of all out war with Iran, following months of alleged sabotage and attacks.

Problems between the two countries began in May this year, when the US deployed a strike group and four bombers to the Persian Gulf, after intelligence suggested Iran was plotting to attack US forces in the region.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the move would "send a clear and unmistakeable message" to Iran.

The following month, four commercial ships and two oil tankers, located in the Persian Gulf were damaged in an incident the US blamed on Iran.

Iran has "categorically" denied the claims it was behind the attacks, however President Trump agreed to send more than 120,000 US troops to the Middle East if Iran continued the attack on American forces.

A few days later, a US surveillance drone was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, owned by the Iranian armed forces, after it had allegedly been violating Iranian airspace.

This was interpreted by the US as a "clear message" of Iran's intent to declare war.

Pompeo And Mattis Hold Joint Press Availability With Australian Counterparts
Pompeo And Mattis Hold Joint Press Availability With Australian Counterparts


The US is reportedly planning a coalition, designed to protect shipping and trade in the Persian Gulf, following the attacks by Iranian military forces.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said this week that there had been no decision on whether Australia's defence force would join the US-led coalition, stating that "these sorts of matters involve a lot of consultation with allies and relevant stakeholders."

"No doubt this is going to be one of the matters that will be discussed (at the AUSMIN Summit), but from an Australian point of view, no decision has been made," Mr Cormann said on Sky News on Friday.

Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, said the idea that Prime Minister Scott Morrison could entertain the idea of joining the US military operations in the Middle East would be a complete "misadventure".

"We've seen this story before, we know how it goes and we absolutely cannot get sucked into this madness again," he said in a statement.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has scored a private meeting with Mr Pompeo on Sunday and Dr Esper on Monday, in which he plans to lobby them to find a "peaceful resolution" to their stance on Iran.

It's a risky move, to advocate an administration, known for it's hard line aggression in the Middle East, to relax, but Albo said he's planning to give it everything he's got.

"I don't think it is in the world's interests, including Australia, to see that escalated in terms of military conflict," Albo said on Sky News on Thursday.

"It's not in the interests of the US to get into a situation of armed conflict with Iran, which is a significant nation in its own right," he said.


It's no secret that the US is currently embroiled is a furious trade war with Australia's biggest trading partner, China, with no immediate end in sight.

This is bound to place some pressure on the AUSMIN discussions this weekend, especially after Donald Trump announced this week a fresh 10 per cent tariff on another $300 billion of Chinese goods, which is due to be imposed in September.

This is in addition to the existing 25 per cent tariffs Trump has already imposed on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Unsurprisingly, China's Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, criticised the US President's decision.

"Adding tariffs is definitely not a constructive way to resolve economic and trade frictions," he said.

"It's not the correct way."

To add salt to the wound, Trump announced the crippling tariffs in a series of tweets, explaining that US representatives had just returned from a trip to China where they had unsuccessfully discussed a future trade deal.

"We thought we had a deal with China three months ago, but sadly, China decided to renegotiate the deal prior to signing," Trump wrote.

Trump signed off with a highly sarcastic message to China's President Xi Jinping, saying he felt the "future between our two countries will be a very bright one!"

"We look forward to continuing our positive dialogue with China on a comprehensive Trade Deal," Trump wrote.

China new ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, responded in kind, announcing China would take "necessary countermeasures" to protect its rights.

He described Trump's tweet as "an irrational, irresponsible act".

"China's position is very clear that if US wishes to talk, then we will talk," he told reporters in New York.

"If they want to fight, then we will fight."

China: “If the US want to fight, then we will fight.” Picture: AP
China: “If the US want to fight, then we will fight.” Picture: AP


While the US is a historic Australian security ally, China remains our number one trading partner, so getting involved in the geopolitical dispute would be ill-advised.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham is currently in Beijing, lobbying for a regional free trade pact with China.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, he said the federal government was "disappointed" by the recent development in the trade war.

"Now we hope it will be averted through the discussions that we trust will continue over the next few weeks," Mr Birmingham said.

"We continue to urge the United States and China to engage in dialogue to try to resolve their differences in this trade dispute."

Mathias Cormann agreed, saying an increase in global trade tensions between the US and China "is not good for anyone".

"We believe it's in everybody's best interests for these matters to be resolved," he said.

Continue the conversation @Rhi_lani or email

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