Press Conference – San Francisco, United States of America
ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: I want to thank President Joe Biden for hosting this 30th anniversary APEC Summit here in San Francisco under the theme ‘Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All’. I think quite clearly it was a very successful Summit. There was good dialogue in the collective forums, but also an opportunity to engage one on one with leaders who represent 75 per cent of Australia’s trade and over half of the global economy. We recognise that we have a real interest in engaging with these countries in order to promote jobs and prosperity in Australia, that is so dependent on our trade. One in four of our jobs is trade dependent. And that’s why it’s important that I spoke today in the plenary session about the WTO system, about making sure that we have proper dispute settlement mechanisms, that there is reform to ensure that the rules and norms of international trade can be applied in the interests of all. Because we know that free and fair trade promotes prosperity in Australia and indeed, right around the region. Once again, I was struck by how much commonality there was in the contributions from the twenty-one economies who make up APEC. We spoke about inclusive growth, the need to make sure that everyone benefits from growth, not just some. We spoke about the need for inclusivity when it comes to gender, and that was a common theme from President Biden and from so many others who contributed. And of course, dealing with the opportunities that acting on climate change represents, as well as of course, the fact that it is a challenge. People spoke, including the head of the IMF, about the economy, the global economy recovering post COVID and then post the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well. That has had an impact on global inflation and the global economy. The Golden Gate Declaration that has come out of this Summit is a very positive one. It speaks about trade facilitation, trade in services, digital and AI transformation, climate mitigation and gender equality. We continue to engage here not just with nations of which we have an interest, but also of course, with business here as well, through the APEC Business Advisory Council. In which a range of Australian business people, some of whom are here, I notice have contributed as well – and this is important. This follows as well the Agreement on IPEF for a regional agreement on supply chain resilience, which is also important. This morning I was able to have formal bilateral meetings with Vietnam and Japan, two important relations for Australia. As well as informal discussions that I had in addition with the President of the United States, with the President of the People’s Republic of China and others throughout the morning and throughout the day. It was seen as a very successful Summit. Peru will host next year’s Summit around about this time. At the same time, the G20 is also being held next year in South America, and I think they’ve aligned the dates for your diaries. So, I look forward to heading home, I’ve got to say. And I look forward to seeing some of you on the plane.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, we saw a nice moment where you got up at the table there and went over to the President of China, shook his hand, spoke to him. It’s obviously important to keep the goodwill going with China?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes, and indeed, after the Summit finished as well, I had a much longer conversation with the President and with Wang Yi as well. He regards my visit there as being very successful. We reiterated the stabilisation that is occurring and, of course, our trade. The removal of any of the remaining trade impediments is very much in Australia’s interest, but it was positive. We spoke about Premier Li coming to Australia next year, now that the leaders’ meetings have been resumed. The relationship with China is important. One in four of Australia’s jobs depends on trade, but more than one in four of every dollar when it comes to exports is related to trade. And when we look at those products of which there were impediments there between Australia and China, last year, last year the figure was in the tens of millions of dollars for products that between January and August of this year, $6 billion of exports. Now, that’s before the barley lift. That’s before what’s occurring already with wine, where negotiations are taking place. This is important for Australian jobs. And that’s the task here, is to represent Australia’s national interest.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, a significant amount of attention internationally on this summit has been on the relationship between the United States and China and the summit between President Xi and President Biden. Do you believe now the world, the region, is a safer place now than what it was a few days ago?
PRIME MINISTER: It is always good when dialogue occurs, and dialogue between the United States and China is very positive. And after the meeting concluded, there was a very long discussion between President Biden and President Xi. It was a warm discussion that I witnessed and it was very positive. The agreement on military to military communications is positive. The agreement to have discussions about artificial intelligence and some of the challenges that face the world between the United States and China is very positive indeed. And it was a very warm discussion between their respective presidents after the Summit.
JOURNALIST: What’s your message to critics at home who view you coming here, we know Peter Dutton told you before you came you shouldn’t have even bothered. What’s your message to those who said you should have stayed and dealt with domestic issues?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, for the same reason you came to this Summit. The reason why people come to this is because it’s in Australia’s national interest. This is in the interests of our jobs and the economy. And I’d encourage Peter Dutton to go back and have a look at what John Howard said about APEC and how important it is. This is the 30th anniversary of APEC and the Australian prime minister has been at every single APEC meeting for those 30 years that has been held. I think there was one year with COVID, there was a disruption, but every single time. Julia Gillard had to depart early from the Vladivostok Summit because of the death in her family. But this is important that Australia be here. This is about our national economy and our national interest and national jobs. And the opportunity to be with the leaders of twenty-one economies that represent 75 per cent of our trade. I just say to Peter Dutton – if you want to be the alternative Prime Minister of Australia, you need something more than just opportunism and comments like that. You need to be prepared to stand up for Australia’s national interest. And I frankly think that it diminishes him as a leader to make the comments that he did.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just on that question. APEC, important no doubt. Eighteen foreign trips in eighteen months as Prime Minister and you say you’re really looking forward to getting home. Is it at the stage where there is simply too much foreign meeting demand on a world leader like yourself and you need to come back or do you need to go to them all?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I note that I travelled less in my first twelve months as Prime Minister than Scott Morrison did. It is just a fact that Australia is a member of the G20, we’re members of APEC, we’re members of the East Asia Summit and we attend the ASEAN meetings. These are all important meetings. And I do note that from time to time, including in the lead up to the NATO Summit, the Opposition were calling upon me to attend meetings and there were editorials calling upon me to attend meetings. And recently, indeed there was calls for me to extend my visits to other countries by the federal Opposition. It is just a fact that part of the job of being Australian Prime Minister is to represent Australia and represent Australia in forums that matter. Because in today’s globalised economy, what happens here has a direct impact on Australian jobs and the Australian economy.
JOURNALIST: You did say you are very much looking forward to going home. There are quite a few pressing issues back home, what will be your first priority when you land back in Canberra?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’ll land back in Canberra on Sunday, we have Cabinet on Monday and we have all of our processes that we’re continuing to deal with. We engage in the range of issues, and there are these things called phones as well. I’ve been in direct contact with Richard Marles and with other Ministers over the last couple of days. One of the things about my government is that it’s a government full of talent, full of Ministers who fulfil their tasks. I have not felt a need to swear myself into different portfolios. What we do is have people doing their jobs in the national interest and we’ve continued to do that. I’ll be in Canberra on Sunday, tomorrow in terms of given it’s Saturday here in the US, and attending the meetings that I have scheduled. Then I have a range of activities during the week. I will, Monday night, be at the Ethnic Business Awards in Sydney. I’ll be in Melbourne on Wednesday, and I’ll be at a range of events during the week.
JOURNALIST: Climate change is one of the key issues of the discussions at APEC. The government wants to host the UN Climate Conference INAUDIBLE. The upcoming meeting is in Dubai. Will you be attending that conference in Dubai to help make that case for Australia to get that conference?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I won’t. Chris Bowen will be attending the COP meeting in December.
JOURNALIST: On your intervention on the WTO, given Australia has suspended its WTO action on China. How critical is it that INAUDIBLE.
PRIME MINISTER: It is critical. But what is also critical is that where possible where there are disputes, they be resolved without going through mechanisms. We’ve achieved outcomes. And on barley, for example, when I was in Port Lincoln, Australian barley is flowing to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in China today.
JOURNALIST: Just back on trade, INAUDIBLE at the same time we’ve got China trying to join the CPTPP. Is that a sign that Australia can’t rely on the US as we’d perhaps like to on trade and that’s a weakness that China is currently taking INAUDIBLE.
PRIME MINISTER: We can certainly rely upon the US when it comes to our trade agreements with the United States. And we had positive discussions here as well. We had really positive discussions with the Commerce Secretary when I was in Washington, DC and when Madeleine King was there as well. We had positive discussions with businesses as well, including the additional Microsoft announcement that I made just yesterday. The United States is a reliable partner, so is Australia, and that’s why our voice is valued in these forums. I think that Australians can be proud of the fact that we as a nation punch above our weight. Our businesses are good businesses. Our word matters in international forums. And we are very much trusted in the way that we engage with other nations here. We are in demand for the bilaterals. And I must say that last night as well was a real opportunity to engage. I sat next to Singapore Prime Minister Lee and President Biden, along with President Marcos and Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia. We had really good, constructive discussions at this forum as well. I met for the first time the Prime Minister of Thailand, that’s an important relationship for Australia. Our engagement in the region really does matter. APEC matters to Australia and it’s been a very successful visit here. And as a result of the visit, there’s further concrete announcements that we’ll make in coming days, weeks and months ahead. And that’s the task here. The task here is to represent Australia, and to get things done in Australia’s national interest. And I’m very humbled by having the honor of representing Australia at forums such as this. Thank you.