Doorstop - Shanghai

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: China International Import Expo, China trade and relations, Belt and Road Initiative.
18 May 2018

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I'm really pleased to be here in Shanghai, and just had the opportunity to visit the National Convention Centre. This will be the scene and location of the forthcoming China International Import Expo. This will be an opportunity in November for Australia to showcase itself to China and the CIIE is of course, the delivery of President Xi's vision of continuing to open up China to the world. President Xi has, on a number of occasions now, made it clear that China is going to continue down its path of structural reform and it's going to continue to open itself up to the world. In terms of Australia and China's bilateral relationship, this is in many respects underpinned by the strength of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. This Coalition initiative delivers broad and deep trading links between China and Australia. We've seen really strong growth in both trade and investment between our countries and I'm genuinely so excited as Trade and Investment Minister and Tourism Minister to see that, as preparations are taking place for the China International Import Expo, that Australia's going to have a very big footprint. This is critical to driving exports from Australia, it's critical to growing Australia's economy, and that of course, reinforces opportunities for the creation of jobs for Australians. We have seen so many jobs created in the export sector off the back of the very strong growth in exports that Australia's seen. Even in, for example, the last two years, we've seen really strong growth in just to give one example, agricultural products. From wine through to fresh fruit, through to of course, stone fruits as well as broad acre farming, all of them having really strong growth. Likewise, Australian beef both chilled and frozen, there is a very high level of demand here in China for Australian goods and I want to make sure that we continue to be at the very forefront of growing those opportunities for Australian exporters because they're critical to growing Australian jobs. Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: Minister, in your talks so far this week, have you had discussions about these concerns from Treasury Wines, from some other food exporters who bring products here into China, about those reports of delays and hold ups?

STEVEN CIOBO: Which other food exporters are you talking about?

JOURNALIST: I've seen in Fairfax some unnamed exporters, saying 'we don't know, but we think there are occasional holdups' etc, so I'm just wondering what discussions have you had?

STEVEN CIOBO: So you're asking me about the people that don't have names, about something that they've only heard?

JOURNALIST: Clearly they didn't want to put their names on it, I'm just asking you-

STEVEN CIOBO: I think it goes to the broader issue, which is that it's important to sort fact from fiction and in the last 36, or 48 hours or thereabouts, I have had the CEO of TWE raise an issue with me. We are investigating that, as I said yesterday. We will look to provide whatever support I can, the diplomatic Posts here in China can and our Customs agencies can. But that is, with the exception of the occasional sporadic issue which, as I mentioned yesterday, is raised from time to time, it's not just with China but indeed, with other countries around the world, that's what we're working through. So I think it's very important that we keep a sense of perspective and you'll understand why I'm challenging you when you say 'well, unnamed sources say they hear things about others'. You know, frankly, I don't have time for that. My focus is upon what we're actually dealing with. This is a very strong relationship. It's a very important relationship, our trade with China is broad, it's deep. Where there are irritants from time to time, which there are, we've worked really constructively through those irritants and a good example was only last year with respect to some labelling issues on beef, where we were able to work very closely with Chinese Government officials. It was a credit to both the Australian officials and the Chinese officials and we resolved that issue in four or five months. So, the relationship is mature. There will from time to time be irritants, we work through that and frankly, it's no different from the occasional irritant that arises with other countries as well.

JOURNALIST: Minister, what feedback have you had from any Chinese officials you've met during the visit, and I notice you were sitting next to someone senior from the Shanghai Commerce Ministry last night. What feedback are you getting about the relationship with Australia?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I think it's fair to say that from both Australia and China's perspective, the relationship is very strong, as I've said. As I mentioned last night in my speech, the relationship with China is an important one. The Prime Minister has reinforced that today with his comments in Australia, where he spoke about us sharing a destiny in a number of respects. We have strong cultural links, we have strong economic links, we have very strong trade and investment links. And the Prime Minister made the point, even two of his grandchildren have Chinese heritage. So, Australia and China will continue to work very closely together, we will continue to make sure this is a relationship that blossoms and frankly, what matters most of all, is to push to one side, frankly, mis-reporting about some concerns, to focus on where there are issues, to have open and constructive dialogue and to make sure that Australia and China's relationship continues to go from strength to strength.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask, who are you meeting? What Chinese officials are you meeting on this trip, if any? And to be blunt about it, what is Australia, what are you getting out of this visit?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I'm not going to detail my full itinerary, obviously. We have opportunity to meet with a number of officials and, as Mike's question alluded to, you know, I just last night had the chance to speak to a Senior Member of the Ministry of Commerce but we're in Shanghai, not Beijing, so there's obviously limited scope for opportunities to meet with senior government officials, in that respect. But look the purpose of this, and this is I think my 13th visit to China in the last three years, is to reinforce once again, in the minds of everybody, that the relationship between China and Australia is a strong relationship, it's a broad relationship, it's a deep relationship. We do have irritants from time to time, but you know what, we have irritants in pretty much every trade relationship that we have globally. So there's nothing unique about that, we talk through it, we work through it in a constructive way for the mutual benefit of both China and Australia.

JOURNALIST: Is the relationship where you want it to be?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I want to make sure that we continue to improve the relationship. I don't ever take the view that the work is done and you rest on your laurels. I always take the view that, for a constructive open, engagement we'll continue to have a strong relationship into the future.

JOURNALIST: Minister, your speech last night, should that be interpreted as a shift in Australia's general stance towards the China relationship?

STEVEN CIOBO: Look, I'm not going to get involved in analysis. I'll leave that up to you guys, that's the job of analysts and media. My speech is exactly as my speech was, which was a statement about the nature of the relationship between Australia and China.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Belt and Road, your language on BRI last night, could that, does that indicated a shift at all, or a change in Australia's position?

STEVEN CIOBO: I've consistently said now for more than a year, that Australia's opportunity for participation in BRI is strong. I, 12 months ago, was in Beijing for the very first BRI, which is Belt and Road Initiative Forum, which took place. Australia and China signed an MOU in September of last year when I was here for the Strategic Economic Dialogue, together with the Treasurer. And that MOU was to look at ways in which China and Australia could cooperate, in a range of areas including BRI, in third countries. So I know a lot of Australian businesses are very interested in opportunities for collaboration on Belt Road Initiative, certainly Australia brings a lot to the table. We've got great experience in project design, project construction, maintenance, management as well as project financing. Australia of course, is one of the founding members of the AIIB, the Infrastructure Bank and we're working together to make sure that we can find opportunities for collaboration, for us to work together for the mutual benefit of both countries.

JOURNALIST: Does it remain a challenge for you particularly for you managing those security concerns with the economic and trade interests, and you know there do seem to be mixed signals coming out of Canberra?

STEVEN CIOBO: Australia's trade and investment relationship with China is very strong, it's our major trading partner, it's worth around $175 billion. We have very open and constructive dialogue around that and that's part of the reason, again, as I said that I'm here for what is my 13th trip in three years. In terms of broader issues and issues around national security, well that's for others to prosecute. Certainly I think it's fair to say that Australia and China do recognise that we do have differences in world views but you know what, that is okay. That is absolutely fine. I don't believe that there is any expectation on either side that there has to be complete uniformity of views. We respect each other's positions, we respect the sovereignty of each other's positions, we work in a constructive way together.

JOURNALIST: Do you feel Australia needs to make sorts any concessions to China in order to get the relationship back to where it was before or it should be?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I think there a big assumption in your question that I don't agree with.


STEVEN CIOBO: That it's not where it was or where it needs to be.

JOURNALIST: So the relationship is where it needs to be?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I already answered that question before when I said there's always opportunity to do more together and I wanna make sure that we continue to do that.

JOURNALIST: With your comment earlier, you siloed I guess, trade and national security but do you think the Chinese are willing to do this? To see trade and national security issues as separate issues, or are they now seeing that as you know, bound up in the relationship?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I think you're asking me to comment on what China is doing, obviously I'll leave that to Chinese Government officials to make that response. I can only speak to the view that I have in terms of my portfolio and more generally the Australian Government.

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