Australia

Morrison poised to embark on summit season

Scott Morrison is headed to Singapore for the East Asia Summit next week. (AAP)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is preparing to embark on his first international summit season, travelling to Singapore for the East Asia Summit next week.

Scott Morrison will focus firmly on free trade during international summits in Asia and the Pacific, as regional leaders grapple with escalating tensions between China and the United States.

The prime minister will travel to Singapore on Tuesday to attend the East Asia Summit.

Against a backdrop of sharpening competition between the US and China and the rise of protectionism, multilateral trade is expected to be a major focus at the East Asia Summit.

Leaders are also due to discuss tensions in the South China Sea and violence in Myanmar.

There are growing expectations Australia and Indonesia may sign a major free trade deal on the sidelines of the Singapore summit.

Mr Morrison and Indonesian President Joko Widodo will both be in Singapore for the event and have previously agreed to sign the deal by the end of this year.

The potential signing - a big win for Mr Morrison - would come just weeks after he inflamed diplomatic tensions with Indonesia by announcing a review into whether to move Australia's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The prime minister is also due to take part in talks on a mega free-trade pact called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

The accord includes the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia, India, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

The deal does not include the United States, which is locked in a trade spat with China, and last year pulled out of another international trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Mr Morrison is also expected to hold at least six bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the event.

Australian officials are working to secure meetings with President Widodo along with new Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mr Morrison is also likely to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the leaders of Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand.

He will then fly to Darwin to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is making a historic visit to the city 75 years after his nation's imperial army bombed it during World War II.

His visit to Darwin is the first by a Japanese leader since the country's military struck the country's devastating air raids on the city in 1942 and 1943, which killed more than 250 people.

Mr Abe is due to tour a gas pipeline project run by a Japanese company and cement military ties with Australia through joint training exercises and increased defence co-operation.

The pair will then travel on to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Papua New Guinea.

Mr Morrison will meet with Pacific leaders in PNG to talk about Australia's new focus on island nations and aims to meet with other key international leaders.

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