site advertisement

Television Interview - Flashpoint WA

Press Conference – Beijing – People’s Republic of China

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: We’ve just concluded two very successful meetings. Firstly, I met with Chairman Zhao, the equivalent of our Speaker in the National People’s Congress. That was an important meeting to discuss the bilateral relationship, and to discuss future cooperation, including exchanges between representative groups between our two countries. We spoke about the importance of continuing to have dialogue. And it was a constructive discussion. We then met with President Xi. That was a very positive meeting following on from our engagement at the G20 in Bali last year. We recognised that was the beginning of discussion between us. And one of goodwill. And it was very much a discussion that could be characterised as just that. One of goodwill, one where we spoke about our common interests going forward and where we can, as I’ve said, cooperate where we can, but disagree where we must. And both of us certainly agreed that we shouldn’t be defined by our differences, recognise that they are there, but also recognise the mutual benefit that we have.

In my meeting, as well, we spoke about trade and the economic relationships. It was fairly high level as well. We spoke about the global economy, about China’s rise, and President Xi gave a positive perspective on what he saw as China’s future growth as well and the role that it would play, not just in terms of economic development in China, but in the region. He also spoke about climate change and some of the shifts that will occur in the global economy and the role that China can play.
We spoke about trade and welcomed the fact that we’re returning to, as a result of the stabilisation of the relationship, returning to the exchange of trade that’s been so important between our two countries. Just to give one figure, between January and August, Australia exported $6 billion of products that had been the subject of the impediments to our trade between exports to China. $6 billion. If we look at those products last year, in the same period, it was $85 million.

That shows, essentially, a $6 billion benefit in those months, which has grown since. That was before some of the changes that had occurred as well, the increased deals that are being done in barley and other products, the deals that have been done in wine, as we speak at the moment in anticipation of the changes that will be made in wine. I noted very much unimpeded trade was in the interest of both countries, was good for Chinese consumers as well as Australian exporters. We even had a bit of a debate about wine and the quality. And President Xi relayed that after one of his visits to Australia, he went to New Zealand and they were pitching up how good New Zealand wine was. But he certainly agreed that Australian wine is good. And I asserted, I asserted Australia’s pre-eminence when it comes to quality red wine, which is in particular demand here in China.

I did discuss international issues with President Xi and the importance of stability in the region and open channels of communication. We also discussed our bilateral relationship. I raised consular and human rights issues during the meeting as well. I noted the importance of stabilising the bilateral relationship so that Australia and China can work together on shared challenge such as climate change, while addressing areas of disagreement communication is essential. It was a very positive meeting. President Xi relayed stories about his visits to Australia, including we had an exchange about he spoke about the Tasmanian devils as being cute animals in Australia. I pointed out that whilst I liked Tasmanian devils, they’re probably not as cute as pandas. And I relayed the discussion I think we had at a press conference yesterday, about pandas. Eryk will be pleased. And he reminded us of the fact that not all pandas are cute, by relaying the Kung Fu Panda story as well. And that, I guess, will give you, you know, one of the anecdotes that could come from the meeting that shows really just how warm the exchange was. It was very positive, it was constructive. I invited President Xi to Australia at a mutually beneficial time to be agreed on. He invited me back to China at a future time as well. The meeting went for over an hour, which was longer than it was scheduled. And I think that reflects the very positive engagement that occurred. Happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: Did AUKUS come up at all? And what were the other differences that were discussed?

PRIME MINISTER: AUKUS didn’t come up explicitly. We discussed, though, regional stability. And we discussed the need for, for example, on Taiwan, I reiterated Australia’s support for the status quo and the positions that we take in the region. I spoke about, I’d be attending the Pacific Island Forum after this event.

JOURNALIST: Did you raise Yang Hengjun? And what are your hopes now for his release?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, I did raise it. I can confirm I raised it.

JOURNALIST: What response did you get?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I raised it in the meeting.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, now that you’ve had the meeting with President Xi, I ask you the question again, is this the man you can trust?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s not a matter of people wearing, you know, a hat here. It’s building a relationship is what’s going on here. You build a relationship by engaging. And engaging is how you build a positive nature going forward. President Xi, as I said, earlier today, when asked, I have had no reason for any of the things that he has committed to me, whether in meetings or other discussions that we’ve had one on one, have been honest and straightforward. And that’s the basis of a relationship. It isn’t one where everyone just ticks off and agrees. And that was, again, the discussion that both President Xi had, but also I reiterated, that we’re not going to be defined by our differences, that where there are differences, you discuss them constructively. And through that comes understanding as well.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you mentioned the part of your conversation. Did President Xi raise the issue of the extended TPP? And also, if I may, did the issue of investment come up? Is China expressing interest, you mentioned climate change, for example, is China expressing any interest in investing in critical minerals in Australia or other assets associated with the energy transition? And is the Australian Government open to that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it didn’t come up explicitly at all. What came up was economic engagement and the need to support multilateralism, including through that economic engagement.

JOURNALIST: Did he have any requests of you?

PRIME MINISTER: No. It wasn’t transactional. I’ve said very clearly that one of the things that I’ve brought to this relationship isn’t transactional, isn’t you do this, and I’ll do that. It is one where positions are put openly, constructively, diplomatically and respectfully. And we are, I think, moving forward in a really positive way, as a result of the approach that my Government is taking through, not just myself, but through other ministerial engagement as well. Being able to engage in that straightforward way is the way that, I think, you build up a relationship and the way that you are able then to go forward. Because people reflect on what you’ve done in the previous meeting, has it been achieved? Yes. And that enables you to then take the next step. So, it’s not a matter of searching for just labels or breakthroughs in a way that defines and changes the relationship at a particular point in time so it’s constant. This is a dynamic relationship. We have political systems that are different. And we work in a way that understands that, that’s clear about that, and work in a way where we are always looking for what is in Australia’s national interest.

JOURNALIST: Last year, the Trade Minister Don Farrell said China had no prospect of joining the CPTPP. Is that still the Government’s position?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Government’s position is that the CPTPP needs to be worked, it needs a unanimous agreement by all of the parties and countries if they are going to get accession to the agreement, have to show a pattern of agreement going forward. Now, we look at any of the applicants, and I think there are six applicants, before that’s worked through with other countries. But we weren’t there to negotiate those issues today.

JOURNALIST: Just back to what you’re saying, what is the next step though? What can Australians see as success to come out of here in the future?

PRIME MINISTER: I think you’ve already seen some success. $6 billion of products coming into China, compared to $85 million the same time last year. You’ve seen improvements in terms of the relations that have occurred. Cheng Lei is in Melbourne with her family. You have seen increased students coming to Australia. You see increased airlines and announcements every couple of weeks about them returning to Australia. This is about Australian jobs. This is about Australian jobs and Australia’s economic interests, but it’s also about our national security interests. We have an interest in there being dialogue and in there being understanding. And one of the things that I raised, again, went back to my Shangri La speech that I gave, where I spoke about guardrails and military-to-military cooperation between the United States and China. That’s important. And I’m certainly hopeful that at future summits, if the meeting goes ahead that has been proposed between President Biden and President Xi, that will be one of the positive things that can come out of this.

JOURNALIST: China previously outlined 14 grievances with Australia. Do those grievances still exist? Did they come up? And what’s your Government’s response?

PRIME MINISTER: No, those issues were not raised. We act in Australia’s national interest. And what we have done is continued to put forward Australia’s position in a principled way, in a clear way, but in a way, as well, that hasn’t sought to amplify differences in order to score a political point. We have maintained all of the positions that we have held.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned guardrails. Have you walked away from this meeting confident that the Chinese would pick up the phone from the Americans in the event of an accident in the South China Sea?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I walk away from the meeting satisfied that we have positive engagement between Australia and China in a way that built on our first meeting that occurred at the G20.

JOURNALIST: Did the war in Ukraine come up? Did you express any concern about China’s support for Russia?

PRIME MINISTER: The conflict in the world was raised. And I certainly expressed concern about the impact of conflict in the world that, in the context, trying to be accurate here, the context in which these issues were raised was the conflict that is there in the world, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Middle East conflict, of the need for peace and security in our region. So, that was the context.

JOURNALIST: Toward the end of his remarks, President Xi talked about a comprehensive strategic partnership with Australia. What exactly does that mean? Is there some formality that the Chinese side want to move on to in the relationship with Australia out of this?

PENNY WONG, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: I think he was referencing the existing partnership. That was there.

PRIME MINISTER: That was there. That has been there. That was certainly the context in which I took.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you were asked about Australia’s position on the CPTPP. So, to clarify, did President Xi bring up China’s bid to join the CPTPP?

PRIME MINISTER: It was raised, yes.

JOURNALIST: Is there an expectation from this trip that there would be a resumption of the annual dialogue, the leader dialogue that we used to have?

PRIME MINISTER: There will be an item of discussion tomorrow with Premier Li. Because Premier Li is my counterpart. So, that is something that may well be discussed tomorrow.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

PRIME MINISTER: I did. I invited the President to Australia. I did.

JOURNALIST: Did he accept it, sir?

PRIME MINISTER: The way that these visits occur isn’t that someone goes, ‘Yep, I’ll be on the plane next week’. So, he acknowledged the invitation and thanked me for the invitation and invited me to return to China. And we talked about going to other places as well, as in within China, to be clear.

JOURNALIST: What message did you send on human rights in China, and did President Xi raise at all the strong language from the Australian side around accusations of cyber espionage and IP theft?

PRIME MINISTER: No to the latter. And I raised the issue of consular and human rights issues.

JOURNALIST: Human rights issues within China?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. We were talking about China and Australia.

JOURNALIST: Are you able to elaborate at all?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I just did.

JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, did President Xi ask Australia to back China’s bid to join the TPP?

PRIME MINISTER: No, but he asserted China’s wish to join the CPTPP just as part of a general issue about global trade and global economic engagement. I think everyone’s had a crack. Thank you.

View Original | Disclaimer

Have Your Say

We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia

Disclaimer | Contact Us | AusPol Forum
All rights are owned by their respective owners
Terms & Conditions of Use