Doorstop, Canberra

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Good morning Foreign Minister. One of the most important summits on the global stage today. What is Australia expecting or hoping for out of the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un?

JULIE BISHOP: I believe that both leaders will want to secure a deal that represents progress in achieving their respective aims. In the case of the United States, that is complete dismantling of North Korea's ballistic missile program and its nuclear weapons. In the case of North Korea, they'll be looking for some form of economic and security guarantee from the United States, and both sides will be looking for progress towards an enduring peace on the Korean Peninsula.

JOURNALIST: Are you expecting to see any sort of deal today?

JULIE BISHOP: It's hard to anticipate what might occur but we wish the summit every success. We hope that we can see concrete steps towards realising a future where North Korea is a law-abiding nation and that it no longer presents a risk to our region and the globe more generally. We hope that there will be a pathway towards the denuclearisation of North Korea and an enduring peace on the Korean Peninsula, but I would think that it would be the beginning of a lot of diplomatic work that would be ahead.

JOURNALIST: Does North Korea have the upper hand in these discussions?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't look at it that way. The United States has brought North Korea to the negotiating table through a series of economic and diplomatic pressures, and through the threat of military action. So it's as a result of President Trump's actions that we see North Korea now at the negotiating table. This is an historic summit - whatever is achieved - because it is the first time a sitting US President has met with a North Korean leader. We hope that it will lead to further outcomes which will mean peace on the Korean Peninsula.

JOURNALIST: But given the personal attacks between the two leaders and the on again off again relationship of this very meeting. Do you look at this summit with a level of cynicism at all?

JULIE BISHOP: We've always been cautious about what can be achieved but the fact that the summit is about to take place, in a couple of hours, means that much has already been achieved - that the US President and the North Korean leader are preparing to meet and we hope that the agenda includes verifiable, concrete, genuine steps on the part of North Korea to no longer present a risk to our region. That means the dismantling of its nuclear weapons program and the ballistic weapons program. I think the key will be what both leaders mean by denuclearisation - both have referred to it, and North Korea most recently in the meeting with South Korea. In the case of the United States, they will want to see verifiable, concrete, irreversible dismantling of the program. We are yet to understand what Kim Jong-un means by denuclearisation. An agreement to denuclearise will only be as good as the verification program that is able to be agreed. That is the presence of independent investigators and inspectors to determine that the programs have actually been dismantled.

JOURNALIST: Do you agree with Donald Trump's assessment that Justin Trudeau is 'weak and dishonest' as a leader?

JULIE BISHOP: I'm not going to run a commentary on current tensions between the United States and Canada. They're both dear and close friends of Australia. We hope that any differences that they have over trade can be resolved as soon as possible. They are long standing, close allies, partners and friends and we look forward to them resolving any trade disputes as soon as possible.

JOURNALIST: Is the IAEA the only body could that undertake the verification process that would be acceptable to the world community?

JULIE BISHOP: That would be the most orthodox path – the International Atomic Energy Agency has great experience, standing, respect around the world and if it were able to carry out the verification program or process, well then I believe the world would feel that the steps had been concrete, verifiable and irreversible. That is the standard that has been applied in the past but of course in the past North Korea has also expelled the inspectors from the IAEA so let's hope that North Korea can agree to verification process.

JOURNALIST: HMAS Adelaide has been in Fiji this week alongside a Chinese vessel. Is there concern from Australia about China's rise in the South Pacific?

JULIE BISHOP: No not at all. The Chinese Navy traverses international waters as the Australian Navy does. We often are in the same port as other vessels from other countries and China is of course free to traverse the world as the Australian Navy is, and free to be hosted in other countries. We will work in partnership and in collaboration with many other nations in the Pacific and that includes China.

JOURNALIST: So there is no concern from the Australian Government that China is building infrastructure in Fiji, is strengthening its presence in that area?

JULIE BISHOP: We are certainly looking to partner with other countries to build more resilience in the Pacific and that includes more investment in infrastructure. The fact that a Chinese vessel is in Fiji is of no concern. We often are in the same part of the world as the Chinese Navy and indeed many other navies.

JOURNALIST: It is not just about a Chinese vessel though, it is about the spending and the influence that the Chinese Government is exerting on foreign shores.

JULIE BISHOP: What we are seeking to do is work in cooperation and collaboration with a number of partners in the Pacific. Indeed, I've just returned from a trip to the North Pacific with members of the Labor Party. Penny Wong and Claire Moore came to the North Pacific with Senator Fierravanti-Wells and me, and we discussed with all three leaders that we met, the three presidents that we met in Palau, Micronesia and Marshall Islands, about the need for closer collaboration between the partners of these Pacific nations - that includes the United States, Japan, China, and South Korea. A number of countries are working with Australia to ensure that the Pacific can be a peaceful, prosperous, stable region of the world.

JOURNALIST: In the last few days have you had any communication from your Chinese counterpart or Chinese Government officials about the foreign interference laws?

JULIE BISHOP: I have not had any contact in relation to the particular laws but I have discussed them earlier with Wang Yi when I met with him in Buenos Aires. We had a very positive discussion about them. The matter is now before the Parliament. Hopefully they will be resolved as soon as possible. We look forward to the bipartisan support of the Labor Party to ensure that these laws can be passed as soon as possible. We have expert advice from our intelligence community that Australia is susceptible to foreign interference and that these laws are necessary to protect our democracy and our democratic institutions. Australia is one of the longest continuous democracies in the world and we want to continue to uphold the values and the democratic institutions that underpin it.

JOURNALIST: Donald Trump seems to be throwing out the book on the international rules based order. Does the Australian Government want that protected and preserved?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia is a defender, promoter and an advocate of the international rules based order. This is the network of alliances and treaties and conventions and norms underpinned by international law that has ensured that the world has been relatively stable over the last 70-years in that there has not been a third global conflict. So we adhere to the rules based order and will continue to do so.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned about the outcomes of the G7 Summit?

JULIE BISHOP: I'm concerned that there are tensions between the US and its Northern Hemisphere allies but I feel sure that these matters will be resolved as soon as possible. There are differences over trade and Australia has been also advocating our position in relation to trade. We believe in open liberalised trade and investment that is in Australia's national interest. It is certainly has worked for us and we will continue to promote that as we have a very ambitious free trade agenda. We will continue down that path because it means greater economic growth, more jobs, more investment and more opportunities here in Australia.

JOURNALIST: How concerned are you that Australian trade could get caught in the crossfire, not only in this G7 dispute but also in relations with the US in general?

JULIE BISHOP: That is why we are urging all sides to resolve their differences on trade amicably. I feel sure that they will. If they are not able to resolve them, there is a structure in place – the World Trade Organisation – and any disputes can be taken to the WTO as they have in the past.

JOURNALIST: Are you prepared to take disputes to the WTO on behalf of Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia does take disputes to the WTO. I am not suggesting there is any specific issue that we would take to the WTO now, but of course Australia resorts to the WTO if we are not able to negotiate an acceptable outcome on trade disputes. In the case, for example, of the steel and aluminium tariffs that the United States have imposed, Australia was able to negotiate an exemption, and those tariffs don't apply to Australia so that underscores the strength of the relationship, that the Turnbull Government has been able to achieve with the Trump Administration over the issue of trade.

JOURNALIST: Wouldn't it be good if Australia, in the long term, if it didn't have to secure one off exemptions, and instead was able to convince the US to play by the rules?

JULIE BISHOP: It was a good outcome. We were able to achieve an exemption from steel and aluminium tariffs and I am pleased that the Prime Minister, the Trade Minister and I were able to discuss this with our counterparts and achieve an outcome of what is in Australia's interests. Other nations have different trading arrangements with the United States and of course are negotiating positions in their interests, but at the end of the day, the World Trade Organisation is there to resolve disputes if they can't be resolved.

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