Australia-China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue - joint press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you for joining us this evening. I am delighted to welcomeChinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Canberra so that we can co-chair the fourthForeign and Strategic Dialogue between Australia and China.

The Foreign and Strategic Dialogue is animportant forum for us to discuss the many bilateral, regional and globalissues that affect our two countries.

Foreign Minister Wang and I confirmed that we areboth committed to strengthening and deepening this already importantrelationship which is in fact already a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

At a time of economic transition and uncertaintyaround the world, Australia reassures China that we are a reliable partner andthat we will continue to place a strong trade and economic relationship as oneof our highest priorities.

Our economies are highly complementary andalready there have been significant benefits for both countries under theChina-Australia Free Trade Agreement which has just celebrated its firstanniversary – on 20 December last year.

On 1 January this year, there was the third roundof tariff cuts and the Minister and I have committed to ensuring that the Free TradeAgreement continues to grow and is moving to the next phase of itsimplementation.

We have spoken this afternoon of areas where wecan diversify our relationship commensurate with Australia's aim to diversifyour economy and spoke particularly of greater cooperation in innovation and inenergy. We're looking at working together in embracing world's best practiceand the newest technologies available in affordable, reliable, low emissionsenergy.

We talked about the need for greaterinfrastructure, both regionally and in our respective countries – China's OneBelt One Road initiative, Australia's Developing Northern Australia initiative– and we commit to the principles of transparency, private sector engagementand ensuring that infrastructure investment leads to strong developmentoutcomes.

We noted that regular leaders engagement and highlevel meetings between our counterparts has led to growing maturity andstrength to our relationship. And at a government-to-government level, therelationship could not be stronger.

We are focussed now on the people-to-people linksand we believe that there are already very positive signs that people-to-peoplelinks are deepening as well.

It's important to note that over 1.4 millionChinese visitors come to Australia and the tourism links between our twocountries are growing.

Indeed I was pleased to be able to inform theForeign Minister that visa applications in Australia can be now done in Chineseonline and I believe that we're one of the first countries to make thatavailable for applications in Chinese online.

WANG YI: Good news.

JULIE BISHOP: Itis good news.

About 157,000 Chinese students study in Australiaand under our New Colombo Plan, China has become the most popular destinationfor Australian students seeking to live, study and undertake work placements inChina.

Foreign Minister Wang and I have more to discussover a working dinner this evening when we deal with a range of other issues ofmutual interest but I'm pleased that the Foreign Minister was able to spendtime with Prime Minister Turnbull to discuss upcoming new year visits andengagement between Australia and China which is in a very constructive andpositive phase.

Foreign Minister, we warmly welcome you here andlook forward to our further discussions this evening.

WANG YI: [Translated from Mandarin byinterpreter] Dear friendsfrom the press, good evening. Well I must say that I've had a lot of pressconferences with a lot of foreign ministers but it is the first time that wehave our podiums so close together…

[Laughter]

It shows that we lovingly establish these veryclose working relationships between Minister Bishop and I but also we have acloseness, a close relationship between our two countries.

I fully agree with the positive assessment givenby Minister Bishop while we just concluded China-Australia Foreign andStrategic Dialogue.

At a time when we face an international situationthat is full of uncertainty, we agree to send a clear message that that it isimportant [indistinct] to an open world. It is important to steer economicglobalisation toward greater inclusiveness, broader shared benefit and in amore sustainable way. We need to firmly uphold the international trading regimewith the WTO at the core and we need to promote trade and investment,globalisation and facilitation and we need to take a stand, firm stand, againstall forms of protectionism. To this end the two sides have agreed to step upstrategic communication and coordination at the United Nations, G20, APEC andother multinational mechanisms.

We speak highly of the notable results that wehave achieved in the implementation of the China-Australia FTA in the past yearand we have agreed to transform and upgrade our economic relations andcooperation so that we can shift faster from mining underpinned prosperity to amore diversified and more sustainable pattern of cooperation so that we canopen up this new phase of FTA-driven prosperity. We intend to link China's Belt Road initiativewith Australia's vision for developing Northern Australia and China'sinnovation-driven development strategy with Australia's National Innovation andScience Agenda and we will further expand cooperation in energy, resources,infrastructure, agriculture, animal husbandry and other areas so thatinnovation will play a greater role as a driver and a strong and fresh impetusto the practical cooperation between our two countries.

We agreed to take the 2017 China-Australia Yearof Tourism as an opportunity to apply more reciprocal visa facilitationmeasures in order to promote people-to-people movement in both ways. In thisarea, I appreciate the announcements made by Madam Foreign Minister just nowthat the Chinese citizens can apply visa online in Mandarin. This will be ofgood news for Chinese travellers. It will make their travelling easier.

Last year 1.4 million visits were made by Chineseto Australia. And I still see greater potential to tap because 1.4 million isonly 1 per cent of the total overseas visits made by Chinese people every year.We hope that going forward Australia will introduce more visitation measures tofacilitate people-to-people exchange between our two countries. That will helpincrease mutual understanding and friendship between the Chinese and Australianpeople and consolidate the popular support for China-Australia ComprehensiveStrategic Partnership.

China supports pursuing a New Colombo Plan withAustralia and understands that Madam Foreign Minister personally puts a lot ofenergy into this initiative and we stand ready to work more closely withAustralia in areas of education, culture, sports, youth and sub-nationalrelations and write a new chapter of friendship between our two countries.

We speak highly of the good momentum in ourjudicial - judiciary and law enforcement cooperation. We agree to strengthencooperation on anti-corruption, fugitives, the recovery of the illegal assets,anti-drug and anti-terrorism and we will work together to tackle transnationalcrimes.

China appreciates Australia's long standingcommitment to the One China policy. The two sides agree to stick to theprinciple of mutual trust and with the benefit, respect each other'sco-interest and major concerns so as to solidify the political foundation ofour coalition.

Right now it is early autumn in the SouthernHemisphere. We look forward to working with Australia to make preparations forupcoming high level exchange between the two countries and to bring our ComprehensiveStrategic Partnership to more fruition and to enable the two countries to makegreater contribution to share the benefits and the common prosperity of theAsia-Pacific region. Thank you. MODERATOR: Thank you Foreign Minister Wang and Foreign Minister Bishop. We havetime for two questions from each side please and the first question will befrom CCTV.

JOURNALIST: [Translatedfrom Mandarin by interpreter] Well right now the international situation is full of uncertainties.The world economic recovery remains weak; protectionism and isolationism are onthe rise. Some think that China needs to play a leadership role. Well, what doyou think China- what do you think- what kind of role do you think China shouldplay in international community under the current circumstances?

WANG YI: [Translated from Mandarin byinterpreter] In today'sworld beset by all kinds of uncertainties all the parties are looking to Chinato play a role. I believe it shows the trust of the international community inChina and its' expectations on China. Last month President Xi Jinping attendedthe World Economic Forum in Davos and visited the UN office at Geneva where hedelivered two important speeches. In his speeches he fully expanded on China'spositions and put forward China's solutions which have been broadly endorsedand well received by the international community. But just now in my meetingwith Prime Minister Turnbull, he also expressed Australia's support for themessage conveyed by President Xi.

I want to state very clearly here that China hasno intention to lead anyone, nor does it intend to replace anyone, because wealways believe that world affairs should be decided by all countries togetherand international rules should be made by all countries together. That said, asa permanent number of the UN Security Council, China is willing to shoulder itsdue responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. As thesecond largest economy in the world, China is willing to provide a strongdriving force for world economic growth. As the largest developing country,China is moving to work tirelessly for upholding the legitimate rise andinterest of the developing countries. As a member of Asia, China is willing tomake its contribution to stability and prosperity of its neighbours. Also as amajor country with 5000 years of civilisation, China is willing to provide morepositive energy to the progress of human society.

Well we remain sober-minded about all the voicesasking China to play a leadership role. China's national strength is still limitedand we need to concentrate our energy for our own developments, both presentand in the period of time to come. The international responsibilities for Chinato shoulder are commensurate with its national strength. To [indistinct] 1.3billion people, this itself is the biggest international responsibility andhistoric contribution made by China to this world. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Now we'll have a question from the Australian side, Fairfax, David Wroe.

JOURNALIST: David Wroe, the Sydney Morning Herald. Minister Wang, welcome toAustralia. The new Administration in Washington has signalled it means to takea stronger and even more aggressive posture towards China on a range of issues.I won't run you through all of the comments that have been made by variousofficials, but except to perhaps just highlight remarks by Steve Bannon justlast year predicting that China and the US would go to war over the South ChinaSea. Mr Bannon now sits on the National - or will sit in meetings of theNational Security Council. Equally, we've had language out of China including aPLA website commentary stating that the chances of a war have become, quote "morereal". Question to you both and I hope that you both offer me a view on this:how concerned are you really by the possibility of war between the US andChina. How did you address that in discussions today in terms of reducing therisk and what would your message on that question be to people across theAsia-Pacific region?

JULIE BISHOP: First, the Australian Government intends to assess the Administrationon its actions and policies since the inauguration and the Administration isnot yet three weeks since being established.

Secondly, we see the United States-Chinarelationship as one of the most significant and important relationships for ourregion and globally.

The interest of both nations must be thecontinuing of peace, stability, security and prosperity of the respectivenations and also those in our region.

We believe it is in the interests of both the UnitedStates and China and all our countries in the region that there be a positiveand constructive engagement in the relationship between the leadership of Chinaand the leadership of the United States.

We certainly look forward to there being a deepermore positive engagement between the United States and China, and Australiawill do all we can as a strong strategic partner for both countries toencourage that deeper, constructive engagement for the benefit of our regionand beyond.

This morning I had a very warm, engaging,positive discussion with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. We discussed theimportance of maintaining adherence to the international rules-based orderunder which many nations, including China and other countries in our region, havebeen able to grow and prosper. So we remain committed to that internationalrules-based order that has provided relative peace, stability, security andprosperity in our part of the world for decades passed. We encourage both Chinaand the United States to continue their commitment to that rules-based order.

WANG YI: [Translated from Mandarin byinterpreter] The diplomaticrelations between China and the United States have been there for almost fourdecades. In the past four decades, there has never been short of a tough orsometimes even irrational failings on China-US relations, but such a statementaside, China-US relationship has defied all kinds of difficulties and has beenmoving forward continuously. Right now our two countries are committed to thisnew model of major country relations between China and the United States, buttoday, between the two countries, our engagement is so close, our interests areso closely intertwined. Last year bilateral trade extended over US$600 billion.Almost all states in the United States do business in China and almost all USuniversities have student exchange programs with China and also there are over4 million visits between the two countries each year. Every day in a fewminutes there is one flight travelling across the Pacific, and that is thereality of China-US relations today.

That is to say for any sober-minded politician,they clearly recognise that there cannot be conflict between China and theUnited States because both will lose and both sides cannot afford that.

I agree with what Madam Foreign Minister justsaid. What we assess is the official policy statement made by theAdministration after inauguration, not campaign rhetoric, not some remarks madeyears ago.

I can also tell you that after Mr Donald Trumpwas elected the President of the United States he had an important telephoneconversation with President Xi Jinping and the tone of that conversation isvery positive. During the phone call President Xi expressed the Chinese side'sexpectation that China-US relations will move forward continuously and thethen-President-elect Mr Donald Trump said I agree 100 per cent and China-USrelationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world.

Well it takes time for the new US Administrationto better acquaint with and familiarise with China, but I'm sure that in time,as long as both sides remain committed to the promises and commitments alreadymade, as long as both sides remain committed to the political foundation onwhich this relationship is built upon and continues to grow, all China-USrelations will move forward in this transitional period and embark on a[indistinct] of faster and healthier development. That is to be expectedbecause that serves the long-term and common interest of the Chinese and theAmerican people.

I also appreciate the positive statements made byMadam Foreign Minister on China-US relations.

President Xi once told American friends thatbetween China and the United States there can be a common and non-exclusive circleof friends and that circle of friends will continue to expand. Well forAustralia it is an important member of that common circle of friends. WellAustralia it can continue to be an ally of the United States, at the same timebe a Comprehensive Strategic Partner for China. We hope and we believe thatAustralia will continue to deepen its Comprehensive Strategic Partnership withChina in a way to make greater contribution for regional peace and prosperityand, as Madam Foreign Minister said, to play a constructive role for China-USrelations.

MODERATOR: A question now from the Chinese side from the Xinhua News Agency.

JOURNALIST: [Translatedfrom Mandarin by interpreter] From Xinhua News Agency: Happy New Year to both Ministers. I have twoquestions, first question is addressed to Foreign Minister Bishop. How do yousee the relationship between TPP and the regional cooperation in theAsia-Pacific; now the United States is out, has Australia conceded in writingChina in?

The second question for Foreign Minister Wang.How does China look at the relationship up until- How does China look at theregional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and has China considered joining TPPsince the United States is out?

JULIE BISHOP: Well first thank you for your question and your good wishesfor the Year of the Rooster. I understand this means a year of diligence andhard work and the Foreign Minister and I certainly commit to that in enhancingthe Australia-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Australia has long been committed to pursuingopen freer trade, liberalising trade and finding new markets and enhancingexisting markets for our goods and services throughout the world.

We are strong advocates of high quality,comprehensive free trade agreements and we have persistently pursued free tradeagreements at the bilateral level including the China-Australia Free TradeAgreement, but also with other significant economies to our north.

Australia was an enthusiastic participant in thenegotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and while we are disappointedthat the Trump Administration has announced that it does not intend to proceedto ratify the TPP, Australia remains committed to the principles and thestandards and the spirit of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

There are 11 remaining members of the TPP andthey are in various stages of ratifying the agreement which has a two yearperiod for ratification.

The other 11 countries, and I can only speak onAustralia's behalf, the other 11 countries have indicated a willingness tocontinue to pursue the principles behind the TPP and there was always theopportunity for other nations who are prepared to meet those standards and embracethe principles of the TPP to join. That's the [indistinct] under the agreement.

Other countries have indicated some interest injoining the TPP and I would certainly encourage China to consider the agreementand the opportunities that may be presented for the agreement with 11 countrieswithout the United States at this stage.

As His Excellency Foreign Minister Wangindicated, Prime Minister Turnbull expressed his support for President Xi'sstatement at Davos about pursuing open, free, liberalised trade. We certainlywelcome that commitment.

And we look forward to further negotiations underthe Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, known as RCEP, which includesas negotiating partners: China, the 10 ASEAN countries, and Australia.

We see open, free trade as being in the nationalinterest of Australia, as providing great benefits to our country. We are anopen, export-oriented market economy and our standard of living, our prosperitydepends upon the ability and power of businesses to export their goods andservices into the marketplaces of the world.

Asia is the most dynamic economic region in theworld today and greater access to markets in Asia means more jobs forAustralians and greater prosperity for Australia.

WANG YI: [Translated from Mandarin byinterpreter] Well Chinaadopts a positive and open attitude toward all regional arrangements that isconducive to regional economic integration that is good for maintaining thefree trade between countries globally.

As we see today, there are various kinds ofregional and sub-regional arrangements in this region. Some are gettingstronger, some are encountering some difficulties, such as the TPP.

So experience has told us that for any regionalcooperation we should first and primarily focus on the need of the economy, andshould not be given political considerations. It should fully accommodate thelevel of comfort of all parties, and with that, the different levels ofdevelopment of the different countries. It should not have all these standardsset by one or several parties and ask other countries to accept such astandard. It should be open and inclusive and not pursue small groups.

Whether it is RCEP or TPP or any other regionalcooperation arrangements, there has been a consensus among various partiesincluding the United States, that they are all pathways leading to a largergoal, that is the Asia-Pacific free trade area. Well it may be one path is notworking for the moment, but there are other pathways. But the goal is clear: wewant an open, inclusive and larger scale free trade area in Asia-Pacific thatwill be conducive to maintaining the international free trade regime. While inthis context, we stand ready to work with Australia to advance the RCEPinitiative, which is led by ASEAN in the 10 Plus 6 Initiative. Some peoplebelieve it is a China initiative, but that is not the case. So we need to moveforward on RCEP negotiations so that there will be an early agreement, so thatwe can, with the early conclusion of RCEP, make a greater contribution to thebigger ball of the free trade area in the Asia-Pacific.

MODERATOR: Last question from the Australian side please, ABC's Philip Williams.

JOURNALIST: Welcome to Australia's favourite city, Minister. I would like to ask afollow up question for my colleague. You said that any conflict between theUnited States and China would damage both countries, and yet we have had theexplicit threats from Rex Tillerson, from others in the Trump Administration,that they want to challenge your claimed sovereignty of islands in the SouthChina Sea. Now as part of our security arrangements with the United States -you will be aware of our ANZUS commitments - we could be drawn into anyconflict. Do you have any message to Australia if they were ever confrontedwith this particular conundrum?

WANG YI: Will you go first?

JULIE BISHOP: Sure. Australia's long-standing position on the South ChinaSea has been consistent and fair and Foreign Minister Wang and I have discussedit on numerous occasions. Australia doesn't take sides on competing territorialclaims. We have a strong interest in unimpeded trade and regional peace,freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight and respect for international lawand it's been Australia's position and it remains that position. We have in thepast, and we continue to encourage all claims to build trust, to refrain fromany provocative actions. In particular we have been welcoming of dialogue ofrecent times between the claimants, that does certainly reduce tensions andavoids any risk of miscalculation. And from our point of view we have welcomedthe fast-tracked negotiations for a code of conduct between China and ASEAN.

And our position has been consistent and clearthat all activities and any agreements between the claimants must be consistentwith international law and that Australia will play our part in seeking toensure that the international rules-based order is adhered to in the SouthChina Sea and beyond.

WANG YI: [Translated from Mandarin byinterpreter] I have a pieceof advice for our American friends: that is to revisit the history of theSecond World War. While in the context of the long history of human race, ithasn't been long since the World War Two ended, some of the important outcomesof the World War Two include the Cairo Declaration Statement and the PotsdamDeclaration. In these documents is clearly provided that territories illegallystolen by Japan from China should be returned to China and those territoriesinclude Nanxiao Islands. And back then it was with the help of the UnitedStates that the then-Chinese Government took back the Nanxiao Islands in alaw-based manner, in a public manner and effective way and resumed exercise ofsovereignty over Nanxiao Islands.

And years later some countries in theneighbourhood of China illegally occupied some islands and reefs in OkinawaIslands and that gave birth to the dispute in the South China Sea. Regardingsuch disputes China has always committed itself to the peaceful settlementbased on [indistinct] and confrontation and based on international law. Thisposition has not changed and will not change.

With the concerted efforts from China and ASEANsituation in the South China Sea is becoming more and more stable. BetweenChina and the Philippines, two parties to the disputes, we have establishedthis bilateral consultation mechanism on maritime issues. At the same timeChina is working with the 10 members of ASEAN to advance COC consultation.China and ASEAN countries with a view to establishing original rules that areaccepted to China and ASEAN countries.

That means that for specific disputes things havereturned to the right track of seeking dialogue and consultation basednegotiation results between parties directly concerned and for peace andstability in the South China Sea, China and ASEAN countries will work togetherto entertain that.

So now as things stands the parties directlyconcerned have agreed to work out and solve relevant disputes based on theprovisions of the COC. So for non-regional countries what they need to do is tosupport such positive approach by regional countries rather than the contrary.What I put emphasis on is the new US Defence Minister said a few days ago, hesaid it is important to hear the words and to diplomacy to all disputes onNanxiao Island. That has been the consistent position of China and I believe itis also the position of Australia.

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