APEC Press Conference | Prime Minister of Australia
PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon. It’s been a real pleasure and very important to be here at APEC. APEC and related meetings present an opportunity to strengthen the regional economic links that are absolutely vital to Australian trade to Australian industries and to Australian jobs. And today, in a number of meetings, I’ve been able to strengthen those.
This morning, I was able to meet with California Governor Newsom, where we discussed how we take forward the cooperation on climate change that has been, is being, delivered under our MOU, building on the ambitious Climate, Critical Minerals and Clean Energy Transition Compact that I agreed with President Biden earlier this year. I also met with Larry Fink, the CEO of Blackrock and welcome Blackrock’s significant investment in Australia, in particular the Waratah Super Battery. It is the largest grid scale battery project in the entire southern hemisphere. This investment is very welcome, and it was great to catch up with Mr. Fink, who’s a distinguished businessperson who has a long history of links with Australia. I had formal bilats with Justin Trudeau of Canada and also my first meeting with Thai Prime Minister Srettha. The Thai Prime Minister is one of the ASEAN leaders who will be traveling to Australia for the Australia ASEAN summit that will be held in March next year in Melbourne. And I was able to also meet with a whole range of ASEAN leaders whilst I’ve been here. President Widodo, Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia, Prime Minister Kishida, who I’ll have a formal bilateral with tomorrow, President Marcos of the Philippines, Prime Minister Lee of Singapore, President Yoon of the Republic of Korea. As well as catch up with our Pacific Island colleagues – the Prime Minister Rabuka of Fiji and Prime Minister Marape, of Papua New Guinea. Prime Minister Marape will be visiting Australia next month, and we’ll have some significant announcements next month during his visit to Canberra. I also had an opportunity to catch up with President Joe Biden and members of his administration, including John Kerry on climate, Antony Blinken on foreign affairs and international issues, and also Kamala Harris, to catch up with her again, renewing acquaintances and talking about our shared objectives as a result of our alliance and economic cooperation that we’ve put in place. I also had an opportunity to meet with President Xi and to thank him for the welcome and the discussions that we had in my visit to China recently.
This has been a very important forum and it will continue to be with more work to be done. At the APEC Economic Leaders’ Informal Dialogue I spoke to the theme of the session – sustainability, climate and the just energy transition. It was an opportunity to talk about Australia’s vision for becoming a renewable energy superpower for our region, to talk about the opportunities that we have to work with countries like Indonesia and Singapore to our north in exporting clean energy, but also the role that we can play because of the abundance of critical minerals and rare earths that we can play in supply chain issues as we go forward. There was a commonality in the contributions from APEC leaders about the need to tackle climate change, about the need to work together and about the opportunities that the transition to clean energy economies presents. There is also a recognition that developing countries need support and that industrialised countries have a responsibility to do what we can.
I was able to talk about the agreement that we made during the Pacific Island Forum with Tuvalu – a landmark agreement, a treaty, which will provide for people from Tuvalu to be able to be settled, up to 280 year, in Australia but also the mitigation that will occur where Australia will contribute $17 million for the expansion of the landmass of the main island on Tuvalu, by 6 per cent, and helping to assist with that process as well. And after the discussion, a number of leaders were very interested in the agreement and its implications going forward. I joined with the leaders of IPEF, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity as well. We issued a joint statement on the substantial completion of negotiations on supply chain resilience, that’s ready for signing, but also the advancing that’s occurring on the clean energy economy and also anti-corruption and the work that’s occurring when it comes to concluding negotiations on IPEF’s trade pillar in 2024. IPEF leaders also endorsed a critical minerals dialogue to strengthen collaboration and critical mineral supply chains and diverse regional competitiveness. Australia’s in a strong position when it comes to critical minerals. And we see this as an enormous opportunity for us going forward for jobs and for the resources sector to contribute economic benefits and for jobs creation as well.
In terms of, going forward, I attended as well, the APEC Business Advisory Council dialogue that was hosted by the Vice President, Kamala Harris. This evening, I’ll attend the economic leaders’ dinner, where I’ll discuss with other APEC leaders how we can work together to ease the economic pressures. One of the things that is characteristic here is that the global economy is having an impact and across the board, inflationary pressures, issues with living standards and the pressures that’s on and a recognition that we need to work together on those issues.
Tomorrow as well, I will meet with Prime Minister Kishida of Japan and the President of Vietnam ahead of the APEC Economic Leaders Retreat and I will be making further contributions there.
Happy to take your questions.
PRIME MINISTER: We have different political systems from China as I have said consistently. Australia is a democracy, China has a very different political system. They don’t have democratic elections.
JOURNALIST: Can you elaborate on your conversation with President Xi and did he give an update on those trade bans and whether we get more Aussie exports in by Christmas?
PRIME MINISTER: It’s probably best to allow China to make their announcements when they make them. I reiterated to him that it was a very positive visit that was well received in Australia. And I reiterated to him that the signal that the impediments to trade between our two nations were reducing and being removed, was received positively in Australia.
JOURNALIST: The reaction in China to President Biden’s dictator remarks hasn’t been great. They say it’s completely wrong and political pressure. Have you got a sense of that from anyone else – has it reverberated through the leaders this year at all. Any discussions around that?
PRIME MINISTER: No.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister – on IPEF. Were you disappointed that there wasn’t able to be a breakthrough on that fourth pillar when it comes to trade? How critical would that be for Australia? And how confident can we be that’ll be broken by 2024, heading into the US election cycle?
PRIME MINISTER: Well when you’ve got three out of four you’re doing pretty well in these processes. That’s the nature of these international negotiations. And there is positive steps forward. One of them is is ready to go for signing. Two of them the wording has been essentially agreed upon and trade there’s some ongoing negotiations. We know that trade agreements are difficult. And we know that from the experience we’re having in trying to finalise a trade agreement with Europe. So I think it was a very positive outcome that in a short period of time IPEF is able to be delivered.
JOURNALIST: Just on that IPEF question. You’ve always been someone very supportive of workers. How does Australia try and influence other countries to life labour standards?
PRIME MINISTER: It was one of the very clear comments as well in President Biden’s both in public comments and the at the IPEF forum, but also in the contributions when we spoke about going forward. We spoke about a range of leaders, including President Biden spoke about inclusiveness as well as growth. Certainly in my contribution on the forum, as well, I spoke about the need for growth to be inclusive and there was a consistent position as well about people not being left behind. So for example, when I was talking about climate and going forward, I spoke in my contribution about the net zero committee that is being run by Greg Combet for the Government and what that is about, it’s an example of where communities are in transition we ensure that jobs are being created. That as the economy changes that people aren’t left behind. And I was struck as, as I, as I have been consistently, in attending the multilateral forum of the consistency of the message of leaders, whether they be from all developed countries or developing countries, about the need to take action on climate change, about the need to listen to the science, and about the need for people to be not left behind.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, that’s got nothing to do with the labour standards. I’m asking how do you influence the other countries because that’s why the trade pillar fell over.
PRIME MINISTER: No, IPEF – well you asked about IPEF, and I told you that President Biden was one of the people who raised the issue of not leaving people behind in those issues. It’s not an agreement on, it’s not an IR agreement. It’s an agreement going forward of cooperation in terms of trade activity. But one of the things that has emphasised is economic inclusion.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister you’ve had a very busy schedule here for APEC but I’m wondering because of that if you could tell us what sort of involvement you were able to have over the deal the Government struck back home with the Coalition on stricter conditions for some of the detainees released.
PRIME MINISTER: I was fully involved.
PRIME MINISTER: I was fully involved. We’ve responded to an issue back in Australia that’s a result of a decision by the High Court of Australia. We’ve responded appropriately.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister just on President Biden’s remarks yesterday about Xi Jinping being a dictator. Is he wrong? Or do you agree with him – is Xi Jinping a dictator?
PRIME MINISTER: We have different political systems. Australia has one political system. China has a different political system from Australia. It’s not a democratic state with elections with multi-party democracies, like Australia is.
JOURNALIST: Does that make him a dictator though?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I just answered your question.
JOURNALIST: Well, just further for that not so much the dictator comment specifically but Prime Minister, you say you’ve had a chance to catch up with President Xi. We’re now a day on from those talks between the two superpower presidents. Give us your assessment on how the danger of conflict has now changed, given you’ve now talked to other leaders and you’ve got presumably some sense from the Chinese camp whether they’re insulted or happy.
PRIME MINISTER: The impression that I get is that the discussions were very positive. And breakthroughs on issues like military-to-military discussion and communication is something that has been raised when I was in Washington DC with President Biden. It’s something that I raised with President Xi when I met with him in Beijing. And it’s something that has now been agreed to. And I think that communication and dialogue is always good.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister do you wish that President Biden hadn’t used that term and do you worry that it has now overshadowed any progress that would have been made?
PRIME MINISTER: I think progress has been made. And I’ve had discussions with both President Biden, President Xi, but also discussions with Antony Blinken who I have a very good relationship with about the positive nature of that. Thanks very much.