Gillard set to take global stage

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is set to take her first steps on the global stage as Australia’s leader at the Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) in Brussels on Monday.


Ms Gillard arrived in the Belgian capital on Sunday night for a series of high-level talks with world leaders at the two-day summit.

She will have face to face meetings with French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

“This is the first time that Australia has had a seat at this meeting and it is a meeting that brings together over 40 world leaders,” she said.

“As well as attending the Asia-Europe meetings, I will be taking the opportunity to have direct discussions with a number of world leaders.”

Ms Gillard has only just completed a turbulent opening 100 days in power.

She toppled sitting PM Kevin Rudd in June before keeping herself in the top job by forming an alliance with Green and Independent MPs in a hung parliament.

Ms Gillard has had a busy weekend on her first overseas trip as PM.

She visited Australian troops in Afghanistan’s Oruzgan province on Saturday and flew to Kabul for separate meetings with the allied commander General David Petraeus and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Next stop was Zurich on Sunday, Ms Gillard catching up with FIFA President Sepp Blatter to discuss Australia’s bid to stage the 2022 football World Cup.

The host of the sporting contest for 2022 competition is set to be announced at FIFA headquarters in Switzerland on December 2.

“I obviously urged him to see the merits of Australia’s bid for the World Cup,” she said.

“We are of course a great sporting nation, this is the biggest sporting event in the world and Australia has a great track record of running major sporting events including the Olympics in Sydney and the Commonwealth Games.”

Australia is one of three new members of the ASEM club along with New Zealand and Russia.

One of the stipulations for ASEM is that no formal negotiations take place.

But the meetings are seen as vital building blocks for the upcoming G20 summit in Korea and APEC meeting in Japan.