The Miriam College Department of International Studies (MCIS) culminated its International Experts Lecture Series on Foreign Policy with Mr. Greg Brown, the First Secretary (Political) of the Australian Embassy in Manila, as Resource Speaker. His lecture held on 4 December 2020 via Zoom was overwhelmingly attended by 137 participants from various universities and colleges in the Philippines, government agencies, think tanks, and non-government organizations. This year’s lecture series featured the foreign policies of the United States, China, and Australia.
In his lecture, Mr. Brown shared the key aspects of Australia’s foreign policy highlighting the country’s values, national interests, and its version of the Indo-Pacific Strategy. In discussing the values that underpin Australia’s foreign policy, he emphasized that though Australia has its own interests, it does not impose its values on other countries and respects international rules and norms. The young diplomat also discussed his government’s approach to achieve a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. He shared that Australia is improving its defense posture and pursuing active diplomacy to advance its interests in the region. Acknowledging the geopolitical realities happening in the Indo-Pacific, Mr. Brown explained the dynamics of Australia’s relationship with the two competing powers in the region – the United States and China. He also described Australia’s support for ASEAN and the high priority that Australia places on its bilateral relations with ASEAN countries.
Mr. Brown also updated the audience of the Philippine-Australia bilateral relations underscoring the two countries’ economic, security, and people-to-people relations, among others. He opined that Australia and the Philippines have always maintained a strong relationship. The two countries signed a comprehensive partnership agreement. They also enjoy robust economic relations. Australia and the Philippines are also security partners noting the Philippine-Australia Visiting Forces Agreement. Stressing the importance of the Philippines for Australia, Mr. Brown mentioned that the Australian Embassy in the Philippines is one of Australia’s biggest embassies. He also gladly announced that Australia and the Philippines will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of their bilateral relations next year.
Inspiring the students taking up International Studies and related fields, Mr. Brown provided background on his work at the Australian Embassy in Manila and the numerous career paths that students can pursue in the future.
Mr. Brown’s lecture was followed by an engaging open forum which lasted for about an hour. Participants took the opportunity of having him and asked questions covering various topics such as the status of the Australia-China relations, the direction of Australia-US relations under the Biden administration, the benefits that the Philippines and other ASEAN countries can derive from Australia’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, Australia’s role in managing maritime disputes in the region particularly the South China Sea conflict, and Australia’s post-Covid economic recovery plans. Mr. Brown competently answered all the questions demonstrating his knowledge and expertise on different issues concerning the Indo-Pacific region.
Dr. Melanie Reyes, Chairperson of the Department of International Studies emphasized the importance of discussing different foreign policy issues for effective international cooperation. She also expressed her gratitude to Mr. Brown for sharing his time and expertise with students of International Studies in the Philippines. Prof. Jonalyn Villasante, head of the lecture series organizing committee, shared her key takeaways from Mr. Brown’s lecture. In her concluding statement, Ms. Villasante, an Australia Awards scholar, briefly mentioned the lessons that future practitioners can learn from Australia’s engagement with its neighbors and its unique role as a middle power actor in the international system. -- By Hannah Francesca Constantino