Simon Birmingham: Thanks so much for comingalong. Sunday, June 2, next year, Port Power versus St Kilda. It will be acracking game that builds now into the third year of AFL footy being playedhere in Shanghai, in China. This is important, because it continues to deepenthe relationship and connectedness between our two countries. We already havean amazing economic connection. Our largest trading partner is China, and weindeed are a very significant trading partner, around the sixth largest tradingpartner, for China. We of course also have a huge visitation, tourism,educational exchange. We've got now over the last 12 months, more than 1.4million Chinese visitors coming to Australia, which was growth of ten percent.That's an incredible growth, and it's something we want to continue to foster.And we can do that by highlighting all of the different aspects that Australiahas to offer. We, of course, have great natural beauty, wonderful food andwine, amazing culture, but also incredible sporting events. And Aussie Rules inthe end highlights many of the attributes that Australia has to offer −outdoors, active-type of nature and environment that really does encouragepeople to come along, get involved, enjoy something that's different, in termsof Aussie Rules, but also take it up in terms of the associated activities ofgetting out and enjoying Australia's great outdoors, we hope. So this is agreat partnership between Tourism Australia and the AFL, working with PortAdelaide and St Kilda football clubs, to be able to bring this together, alongwith Chinese partners, who are so important to it. We want to make sure thiscontinues to go from strength to strength. I welcome the three year commitmentthat has been given by the partner organisations to ensure this now has theability to grow over the longer term, to attract more partners, to attract moreassociated events around it, all of which can only help to strengthen theAustralia-China relationship and all of its different aspects.
Journalist: Minister, as Trade Minister here for the firsttime, the import expo. What do you hope that Australia gets out of this expoover the next week?
Simon Birmingham: Well, the China InternationalImport Expo is an incredible opportunity to highlight the strength and successof the Chinese economy over the forty years since it began to open up to therest of the world. And so firstly, we congratulate and celebrate China on theireconomic success, which has lifted millions of people, estimated [to be] morethan 800 million people, out of poverty, which has ensured that countriesacross the region have seen stronger growth and more people in other nationslifted out of poverty − and which of course has grown to become the mostsignificant trading relationship that Australia has. But this is also anopportunity, as China has clearly badged it, an import expo, an opportunity forAustralia to ensure that we sell our best food and wine produce, our besthealth services, educational services and products, all back into the Chinamarket. We're thrilled that there are so many Australian companies, around 130companies, 200 plus Australian brands, who are going to be here, in Shanghai,selling their wares, to the many thousands of Chinese buyers who will be visitingthe import expo.
Journalist: The Victorian Government hassigned up to the Belt and Road agreement. What about the Federal Government?Would you look at doing that, and what's the impact of perhaps a state signingup and the Federal Government not?
Simon Birmingham: Well, we welcome the fact thatVictoria has shown their enthusiasm and initiative. The Australian Governmentwelcomes the fact that through the Belt and Road Initiative, China invests moreacross our region. We urge and encourage that investment to be in ways that aresustainable and productive for the countries in which the investment occurs. Itneeds to always respect the sovereignty of those countries, and be for the longterm interest of those countries. But indeed as a nation, Australia, has longhad an active investment profile across our region in supporting developingcountries, we welcome other partners to that table. We have done so. We alreadyhave an existing MOU with China that covers infrastructure cooperation, and ofcourse we will continue to work, project by project, where that works to thebenefit, not just of Australia and China, but particularly of third countryrecipients.
Journalist: But would we sign up to the Belt and Road, say asNew Zealand has?
Simon Birmingham: Well, we already have an MOUthat involves infrastructure cooperation with China, and we'll work, project byproject, where it works to China's interest, our interests and importantly,recipient countries.
Journalist: Tomorrow morning President Xiwill give a speech presumably on trade. Amid this trade dispute with DonaldTrump, is it important, from the Australian Government's perspective, for Xi toindicate further reform or further opening of the Chinese market tointernational companies in this speech?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I'm not going to standhere on my first visit as Trade Minister to China and seek to suggest what Ithink President Xi needs to say. What I welcome is the fact that PresidentTrump has indicated in public comments, that it's been a constructiveconversation he's had recently with President Xi, that he's looking forward tobuilding on that at the G20. I hope that through dialogue, the U.S. and Chinacan head off the type of escalation, in terms of tariff increases, that hasbeen foreshadowed by the United States. Australia has always urged the partiesto talk and to engage rather than to go down a protectionist path, thatundermines the type of trade liberalisation that has been so critical to theeconomic growth of China, to lifting those millions out of poverty, that Ispoke of before, and that will be so critical in the future, to continuing toensure economic growth here, across our region, and around the world.
Journalist: Any indication yet of whichChinese officials you will be meeting during your visit? And what are some ofthe issues you'll be raising with them, if you do?
Simon Birmingham: Look I'm off tonight to thestate dinner that will be hosted by President Xi, and I certainly hope to beable to have conversations while I'm here, with Minister Zhong, and indeed withother officials across Chinese commerce and government where possible. In termsof precisely when those will happen, we're still working through all of theprogram elements, but Australia will encourage China to continue to support themultilateral rules-based trading system, to work with us through the WorldTrade Organization, to address some of the areas of concern, to stand with usas a nation that promotes trade liberalisation, and of course, betweenAustralia and China, we have an incredible story to tell and to share withother countries, from the success of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.That in opening up our two markets, we've seen such strong growth in terms ofgoods and services transactions and investment flows, all of which we believecan be enhanced elsewhere around the world. And of course we want to work tomake sure that we take ChAFTA on the next steps of its journey, in terms ofensuring full utilisation of the provisions within it.
Journalist: The bilateral relationship's been a bit rocky overthe past year and you've had trouble, supposedly, getting other officials in,where do things stand there?
Simon Birmingham: Well I'm here today. I'mthrilled to be here in China. I look to this as a positive opportunity tohighlight China's success, the strength of the Australia-China relationship andthe areas within which we can continue to work constructively in the future. Wewon't always agree, no two mature countries always agree on every policyposition and there are strategic challenges that the Prime Minister has rightlyhighlighted. But we should focus on what is a very positive relationship. Onethat transcends our two governments, into the extensive business-to-business,people-to-people links that we have, and to make sure we build on that for thefuture.
Journalist: Do you think if we don't, ifthe relationship doesn't improve, or there continues to be irritations, thatcould damage our trade relationship with China?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I'm an intensely positiveperson and I'm here wanting to bring a positive message to China, that wecelebrate China's economic success to date. We look forward to greater economicsuccess in the future, because that's good for our region, it's good forAustralia and we want to be a constructive partner, to continue to ensure thatworld economic growth is maximised through free trade and a rules-based orderof trading arrangements. That regional economic growth and economic growth inour two countries is maximised by being cooperative, by ensuring we focus onhow it is we create more prosperity for the peoples in our countries and thoseright around the region that we share.
Journalist: [Inaudible] … I think you'veanswered it but anyway, [what about the issue] that Huawei was possiblyinvolved with some spying in some country somewhere.
Simon Birmingham: We obviously don't comment onparticular security assessments. The 5G decision was taken as a principleddecision to not facilitate involvement of any companies that could be subjectto direct state control or influence. We welcome Chinese investment inAustralia, which has grown dramatically, and I'm sure will continue to grow.But in terms of the particulars of that, I'm sure you wouldn't expect that wewould comment on those alleged security arrangements.
Journalist: And there's no chance of itchanging. I mean, there's some reports or rumours that the Chinese would liketo change the decision or lobby to amend it or change it in some way.
Simon Birmingham: The positionwe've taken is one that takes into account national security arrangements. Itdoes so, not targeting any one country or company, but applying consistently interms of the type of rules and structure that we've outlined.
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555