Australia to bring back ambassadors to shape foreign policy

[SYDNEY] Australia will temporarily bring back every ambassador from across the world to help shape the final components of its new foreign policy, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Wednesday citing the Foreign Ministry.

In an Australian-first step, 113 heads of missions, including the nation's ambassadors, high commissioners and consuls-general, will return for three days next month, the paper reported.

The ambassadors will meet in Canberra for a two-day meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Trade Minister Steven Ciobo to contribute to a long-awaited foreign policy white paper. "This meeting will be important in strengthening Australia's influence and standing in the world," Ms Bishop said in a statement to Reuters. "At a time of significant global uncertainty, it is vital that Australia harness the experience and intellect of our most senior diplomats."

The white paper, which is being developed as Australia looks to reset how it navigates its foreign, trade and development policies on the global stage, will be delivered later this year.

The last such paper was published in 2003 under the government of John Howard. "What we're looking for is a comprehensive strategic framework so that we are able to positively shape and have some influence over our national interests and shape things for the better, rather than reacting to events once they have occurred," Ms Bishop was quoted by the paper as saying.

Australia is walking a tightrope trying to balance its relationship with No.1 trading partner China which is expanding its maritime claims in the South China Sea and other south-east Asian countries which have opposed the move.

Australia also recently hit a low-point in its relationship with the United States when President Donald Trump said on Twitter a planned refugee swap between the two nations was a"dumb deal."

Australia is a staunch US ally and is currently flying combat missions in Syria. It has also said it was open to stepping up its military commitment against the militant Islamic State group.


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