Press conference, Shanghai, People Republic of China

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Visit to the People's Republic of China; trade; China International Import Expo; visit to Shanghai; CPTPP; Australia's relationship with China; panda diplomacy.

Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese: It's terrific to be here in Shanghai. This is my seventh visit to China but my first as Prime Minister. And it's an important international expo and its objective is to support jobs in Australia. And quite clearly, there are some 250 Australian companies here, many of whom have already benefited from the changes that have occurred in the trading relationship in recent times. And many more such as the wine industry stand to benefit on the agreements which are being reached already in anticipation of what has occurred with the different announcements that have been made.

I was very pleased to meet last night with Premier Li and to attend the banquet for the opening as well. It was an opportunity for us to renew the relationship that we started when we met together in Jakarta and then had a less formal meeting during the G20 in New Delhi. We look forward to continuing to meet producers and sampling some amazing products here with the Trade Minister. The businesses were all very keen, whether they be the business peak group such as the Business Council of Australia or individual businesses from the different states and territories here. Even businesses that I visited in Australia last week like Bundaberg, that have had a $152 million investment in a new facility there in regional Queensland, in part because of their success in exporting to this country. Australia has a lot to offer China and the improvements in our trade relationship are a win-win. Australia gets to export, gets the income that comes from those exports. But China gets access to what are amazing products. But also our services are important as well. We've had in recent times are further opening up of tourism, including additional flights to Queensland directly from here in Shanghai. And that's important for us as are our education and health services and others that we can offer. One in four of Australian jobs depends on exports, and more than one in four of Australia's export dollars are from China. And therefore, this is a critical relationship. It's a focus of the visit here in Shanghai. In Beijing where I'll travel later today, we'll be discussing with President Xi further issues about the broader relationship between Australia and China, but I have been very pleased to be here. I will ask the Trade Minister to make some comments and then happy to take questions.

Minister for Trade, Don Farrell: Thank you Prime Minister, and it's fantastic to be with you here in Shanghai, and as part of your official trip to China, the first by an Australian Prime Minister since 2016. While in Shanghai, I've met with senior business leaders from a range of commercial sectors to promote Australian tourism and trade opportunities. I've also had the opportunity to meet with my counterpart, Minister Wang Wentao last night, our fourth meeting. Once again, a very warm meeting, and he reiterated his desire to come and visit us in Australia. This afternoon, I look forward to joining the Prime Minister on his visit to attend the sixth China International Import Expo. This year's Expo is the largest one ever and around 250 Australian businesses are showcasing all the wonderful things Australia has to offer. Australian quality goods and services are well loved, as we know, by the Chinese consumers. And this is a very important opportunity for exhibitors to showcase their world-class products.

Journalist: We're heard a speech today from the Chinese Premier, PM, which made it very clear that China seeks membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Pact. Now, if they don't qualify right now, because of their behaviour on trade, do you think it's reasonable for China to aspire to membership at that trade pact over time, as long as they follow the rules of the road on open trade?

Prime Minister: Well, that will be a matter for the members, the arrangements that are in place for the CPTPP are that it needs the unanimous agreement. The United Kingdom has just had a session to the agreement there. My understanding is there are six countries that have applied. And we will deal with that in an appropriate way.

Journalist: Prime Minister, do you see an opportunity on this trip to act as something of a facilitator or a bridge between the US and China? You've just met the US President. You're about to meet the Chinese President. Do you see, apart from representing Australia's national interests, an opportunity to thaw the relations between those two superpowers?

Prime Minister: We think improved relations between the United States and China are a good thing. It is good that Secretary Blinken has visited here. It's good that you're having ministerial level dialogue. It's a good thing that President Xi will travel to APEC, for the 30th anniversary that will be held in San Francisco in a little over a week's time. That will abe important. We, though, importantly, have a relationship with China and have a relationship with the United States. It's important that they talk to each other. And I don't think that they need an intermediary to do so. We though, of course, the important thing about Australia's relationship and something that my Government has brought to our international relations, is we say the same thing to the same people in a consistent way. That's how you develop trust in international relations. And I believe that Australia's a trusted partner.

Journalist: Prime Minister, what's your message to Australian businesses here and back home contemplating reengaging more trade with China? How wary should they be on ,diversifying? Should they be cautious? What's your message?

Prime Minister: Well, I think all countries are seeking to diversify their trade, but we encourage positive relations. This is a market of 1.4 billion people. This is an economy that is growing faster than the global average. And this is an economy that is complementary in many ways to the Australian economy. So, there are wins to be had. Our relationship has been that we have sought to improve the relationship with China by being patient, calibrated and deliberate. By engaging in a constructive way. And I think we're seeing benefits from that with our trade. And that's a positive thing.

Journalist: On those benefits, Prime Minister, the Premier just spoke about China throwing its door open again and engaging in free and open trade. Most of the restrictions on Australia seem to have been removed now. How confident are you that they will all go soon?

Prime Minister: I thought the Premier's comments were very positive. And I welcome them. We want to see any impediments which are there for our trade to be removed and dealt with. And I must say that the discussions that I had with the Premier in Jakarta and then in New Delhi were very positive, were very positive. And the views that he put forward in his speech today are consistent with the views that he put to me, where we spoke about the importance of the relationship, the importance of China getting access to our wines, pretty good product. Our barley is the best in the world. It will be feeding into Chinese beer production. Our lobsters are pretty good too. And so, we want to see China be able to benefit from receiving that and we want to see Australian businesses benefit as well. Let's be very clear. Our trade delivers economic activity, which delivers jobs. And when I was in Port Lincoln, just a couple of weeks ago, certainly the seafood industry there are very interested in the success of this visit. Just as the wine industry has been focused. Just as immediately deals have been done when it comes to barley with China, in the very short period of time in which we dealt with that issue.

Journalist: Prime Minister, the only two giant pandas in Australia, Wang Wang and Fu Ni, could be forced to return to China next year. Panda diplomacy is an important part of Chinese statecraft. Would you like to see them remain in Australia?

Prime Minister: Let me just say this about pandas: I'm pro panda. Let's be very clear. Pandas are wonderful animals. And for those people on social media, there is no better Instagram accounts to follow than panda accounts. Let me just say that. So, of course, it is positive. I've met those wonderful pandas at Adelaide Zoo. And it is obviously a positive thing that they have been able to be there in Adelaide. But my understanding is that the discussions, pandas do get homesick. My understanding is that the discussions between Adelaide Zoo and in China, the Chinese counterparts, the conservation organisation are ongoing. But yes, I would on behalf of Australia's kids and families, I would like to see pandas maintain a presence in Australia.

Journalist: I just want to go back to the CPTPP if I could. The Premier actually raised it explicitly in his remarks to really try to explain this morning that China wants to join that agreement. You've said correctly, obviously, it needs unanimous agreement. But you haven't been clear really what Australia's position is, given that he is likely to raise this with you in a meeting tomorrow. What is Australia's position on whether or not China should be a member of the agreement?

Prime Minister: So, the question is, what am I going to say in a meeting I'm having tomorrow? I think you answered the question. The way that I deal with things is to have meetings with people, when we have meetings, not to foreshadow in press conferences what will happen in those meetings.

Journalist: Is there a timeline for the resumption of the seafood trade and red meat, perhaps the PM or the Trade Minister?

Minister for Trade: What was the question?

Journalist: Is it a matter of weeks or months for the seafood and the red meat?

Minister for Trade: Look, I raised those issues directly with my counterpart last night. And I expect that as part of the stabilisation process that's going on with China. And as part of our ambition to remove all of the impediments, I would expect that in a very short space of time, we will find that those products are back into the Chinese market. When that will be, I can't tell you exactly. But all of the indications last night from my meeting with Wang Wentao was that it's going to be a very positive outcome.

Journalist: Prime Minister, back to the CPTPP. China has made it clear that they would like Australia's support. Australia will exert some influence over the other members in terms of whether this is a worthwhile thing to get into considering the actions that China has taken regarding trade. So, it's fair to ask what is Australia's stance? Is Australia open to outwardly supporting China in the CPTPP.

Prime Minister: It is fair to ask. It's also fair to refer you to the previous two answers that I gave to the same question.

Journalist: Can I try a different way of that? Your previously stated position on China's accession to the CPTPP is still the Government's position? As previously publicly stated?

Prime Minister: Well, what we've said is that any country must demonstrate that it can meet the high standards of the agreement. And that is the basis of that going forward. And any positions that are advanced tomorrow will be advanced tomorrow. But we haven't had those discussions yet. And I don't think it's reasonable, to make it very clear, the way that you deal and the way that we've improved relations with countries is by having respectful relations with them and respectful discussions with them. Not by seeking to score domestic political points, but always acting in Australia's national interests. And that's what we'll continue to do.

Journalist: Prime Minister, we have heard some glowing words from Premier Li about the state of the economy here. But iron ore is obviously the product that we're most reliant on in an export scenario. Population growth is slowing here, possibility of a recession. What fears do you hold about the iron ore aspect of the budget holding up in the next, sort of, five to 10 years?

Prime Minister: We have strong confidence that we will continue to be able to benefit from exporting our materials, including our resources, to China. If you look at what is happening here, there are challenges in the global economy everywhere. That is just a fact. And those challenges have had an impact on inflation. They've had an impact on energy prices, in particular. They have had a slowing impact on the global economy. And that's a reason why we need to continue to be engaged. But Australia's iron ore continues to be an important asset that we have and an important source of revenue for Australia.

Journalist: Is Australia open to any more Chinese investment in critical minerals?

Prime Minister: Look, we view those issues on a case-by-case basis. And we have our processes in place. And they're dealt with.

Journalist: How would you characterise your welcome here so far?

Prime Minister: It has been very positive. It's been very positive with Premier Li. And I was welcomed by a very charming, young 10 year old girl at the airport last night, I thought that was a really nice touch. And then last night at the banquet was very, very positive. I was able to speak to the Vice Premier as well over dinner, as well as have discussions with the Premier before dinner. And then this morning, more informal discussions. So, I think what we're doing here is building positive, constructive relations. And I've said we will cooperate where we can, disagree where we must, but engage in our national interest. So, no doubt we'll have discussions, including in areas where there are disagreements tomorrow. But we'll have them in a straightforward way on both sides. And in a way that helps to build that trust. We have different political systems. In some areas, we have different values. We will put that in a straightforward way, which is in Australia's national interest. But the welcome here has been very positive. I went, as well, along the Bund this morning, spoke, to the extent that it was possible, to people. Got videoed by Will as we were running along. And that didn't seem to create any problems. You know, it is, in my experience, whenever I have been here, it's been warm and engaging. And that's a positive thing.

Journalist: A lot has been made of this meeting tomorrow and the fact that you're the first Prime Minister here in seven years. What are you expecting from President Xi and what can he expect from you?

Prime Minister: What he can expect from me is a continuation of the patient, calibrated and deliberate way of engaging in Australia's national interest. And with a foundation that I believe it is in Australia's interests and China's interests for us to cooperate wherever we can. And what I expect from President Xi is the same. I think that the first meeting I had with President Xi, on the sidelines of the G20, was very positive, was very constructive. President Xi is someone who has visited Australia and visited every state and territory of Australia. So, he's very familiar with us and who we are. Australians are really straightforward. And what I've taken to international engagement is what I've taken to my Party room and to the way I engage in Australia. Being upfront, being straightforward, having clear objectives, saying what I will do, and then doing it. Thanks very much.

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