Fifth Foreign and Strategic Dialogue, Diaoyutai Guest House, Beijing

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: China, CIIE, CK Group, Xinjiang.

HOST: The press conference of the Chinese and Australian Foreign Ministers now begins. This press conference has two parts. The first part, the opening remarks will use simultaneous interpretation and the Q and A session will use consecutive interpretation. Now please, let me welcome Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, to give the opening remarks.

STATE COUNCILOR WANG YI: [through interpreter] Today is the festival for journalists so may I extend festive greetings to all of you. You have worked very hard and contributed to this relationship between China and Australia through your reporting. So I wish to take this opportunity to say thank you to you.

It's my great pleasure today to welcome Foreign Minister Madam Payne to China and to have the fifth round of Foreign and Strategic Dialogue. While this is the first round of strategic dialogue since the new government of Australia came into power and also an important engagement after the ups and downs that this relationship went through, this is also a strategic communication that covered all the global challenges that we face together.

Let me say that we today had a very good dialogue, and we reached our goals. I think the most important outcome of this dialogue is that we have reaffirmed the course of this relationship, and this relationship must set sail on and stay on this course. We believe that it's important to stay committed to the improvement and growth of this relationship. A sound, stable, and sustainable China-Australia relationship is not only in the fundamental interests of the people of our two countries, but also conducive to Asia-Pacific peace, stability and prosperity.

We appreciate the public comments made by the new leaders of Australia, that Australia views China's development as an opportunity rather than a threat and committed to developing a long-term and constructive partnership with China. In the letter that Madam Foreign Minister sent me a few days ago, she stressed that Australia and China are not only neighbours, but also strategic partners. Today she reaffirmed that working with China under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership remains one of the priorities of the Australian government. China welcomes this.

China and Australia do not always agree, but it's vitally important that we always match our words with actions. We are confident that Australia will translate its positive will of growing relations with China into actual actions and make it a widely embraced common understanding of people from various sectors in Australia, and too demonstrate the real value of our comprehensive strategic partnership.

We also agree that it is important to stay committed to free trade and open markets. Both China and Australia are advocates and the beneficiaries of free trade. China is Australia's largest trading partner, a third of Australia's exports are to China. And for the past three years, since our Free Trade Agreement was implemented, the tariffs have kept coming down.

On the first of January, next year, we will have the final round of tariff cuts and all products, almost all the products, will enjoy zero tariff treatment. China has all along run a significant deficit in our trade but has never taken any unilateral protectionist measure. We have always welcomed the fine products from Australia to enter the Chinese market.

I have received some news. I'm not sure if, I have not verified them yet but, in the recently concluded CIIE import expo, China and Australia have reached agreements on trade worth over $10 billion US dollars. I think that is certainly good news and we also hope that Australia will provide a more open and fair environment for Chinese investment. We are ready to work with Australia to expand our mutually beneficial cooperation, uphold the rules-based multilateral trading system, and build an open world economy.

Today, we also agree that we need to stay committed to regional stability and prosperity. China and Australia are in different hemispheres, although we always have opposite seasons, but we are still in the same region. We know better than anyone else the situation in this region and we are both committed to finding peaceful solutions to regional hotspot issues. And we stand ready to step up communication and coordination in regional mechanisms, such as the APEC and East Asia Summit, to focus on development and cooperation and to advance regional integration.

Both of our two countries, and the Pacific Island countries, are members of the Asia Pacific family, just like members of the same family and neighbours, we wish each other well. And China and Australia can fully cooperate with each other on cooperation with island countries. There is no zero-sum game, and we are ready to work with all countries in this region to build a new type of international relations based on mutual respect, fairness and win-win cooperation to boost trust and cooperation. Thank you very much. [Inaudible]. Thanks, State Councilor Wang.

HOST: The Minister Marise Payne will give her opening remarks.

MINISTER PAYNE: Thank you very much, and let me start by saying how good it is to be in Beijing on this beautiful autumn day. I'm told by the experts that autumn is the best season in Beijing. So being able to inspect that myself and to be here at this stunning guest house is a great day indeed. May I please thank, State Councilor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, for hosting today's Fifth Foreign and Strategic Dialogue.

I have been welcomed very warmly and very much appreciate the hospitality which has been shown to me. It's a busy week for Australia in China, both with the visit of Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Simon Birmingham to the extremely successful import expo in Shanghai and my visit here today.

State Councilor Wang has commented on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in his opening remarks. But I want to reinforce what I have said at home in the lead up to this visit, and that is to note Australia's commitment to deepening our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with China. It is a foundational building block of the relationship and of its future.

Of course, our economic relationship goes from strength to strength with two-way trade, direct investment, services, and tourism numbers all at record highs. And we have very much reinforced the importance and the value of Chinese investment in Australia in our discussions and through the work of Trade Minister Birmingham in Shanghai this week.

But it's fair to say that our relationship is much broader than just trade and investment and that's been reflected in today's discussions. We have had a very valuable, full, and candid discussion over the past few hours, and we should probably apologise for keeping you waiting just slightly. That is indicative of the broad number of matters and the very positive discussions that we have had.

We've talked about our bilateral relationship and how we take that forward. I'm pleased to say that we discussed the many interests we have in common and agreed to work more closely, on taking those forward in both bilateral, regional and global contexts. I think the scope of the issues that we have been able to discuss demonstrates the extent of our shared interests outside the very obvious trade and investment sphere.

We share a deep and abiding interest in the growth and prosperity of this region from collaboration on transnational challenges. Whether that is in countering drug trafficking or addressing climate change. Whether it's advancing our shared regional and global goals like disaster risk reduction, like countering protectionism, the reduction of poverty. Underpinning that though, for any Australian who has viewed the contribution of the Chinese diaspora in Australia to our nation over many years, underpinning that are deep people-to-people links. They manifest in almost every aspect of Australian activity and society. Education, trade, tourism, investment, the issues that we have discussed. But in corners and pockets of Australia, all over our country, for literally centuries, there have been pockets of members of the Chinese diaspora who have made an extraordinary contribution to our nation over all of that time.

We will walk together, in this relationship as we continue its development, with an approach of mutual respect. We have a lot to do in upcoming weeks and months. That is including the engagements across the East Asia Summit, across APEC, across the G20, but in also the work program that we have discussed today. Many opportunities and many issues which we will continue to engage in constructively and manage together. That is the mark of a respectful relationship and that is the relationship on which we have strongly agreed today.

Thank you very much for your attendance here this morning.

HOST: Now the floor is open. [Chinese language]. From CCTV.

JOURNALIST: [through interpreter] I'm with CCTV, I have two questions to both Foreign Ministers. My first question goes to State Councilor Wang Yi.

We know that the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Morrison, recently said that a strong United States is of vital importance for Australia and a strong relationship with China is equally important to Australia. So yesterday, the midterm election just concluded, how would you expect the China US relations going forward?

I also have a question to Minister Payne. We know that just two to three days ago, at the opening ceremony of the first China International Import Expo, President Xi Jinping announced the latest measures that China will take to expand its opening up. We also know that Australia also believes in free trade and supports free trade system and Australian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Investment has [inaudible] your delegation to the first CIIE. In future what will Australia do to work with China to uphold free trade and deepen win-win cooperation?

STATE COUNCILOR WANG YI: [through interpreter] The mid-term election of the United States is the domestic politics of the US. China does not interfere in other's domestic affairs.

China-US relations are, in essence, mutually beneficial. China and the United States are the biggest developing country and the biggest developed country respectively. We are the world's two largest markets, and two Security Council permanent members, shouldering important international responsibilities. Therefore, between China and the United States, the need for cooperation far outweighs differences. And the imperative of China US cooperation, in the long run, far outweighs partisan differences or domestic changes.

China and the United States will soon celebrate the 40th anniversary of our diplomatic ties. And let me quote the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, "a man at age of 40 should have no bewilderment about life". The past 40 years of China-US relations have attested to that. China and United States stand to gain in cooperation and lose in confrontation. And this history has revealed to us that the more complex the situation is, the more problems there are, the more important it is for both sides to stay level headed and keep focused.

On the first of November President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump had a phone call and they reached important common understandings on maintaining healthy and stable growth of China-US relations. The two presidents will soon have a meeting during the G20 summit in Argentina, and that would be of great significance for both sides to manage differences effectively and resolve issues in a practical way. China stands ready to work with the United States to remove disruptions, accumulate mutual trust, respect each other and work together to make full preparations for the upcoming presidential meeting. And we believe that meeting will help chart the course for China-US relations and provide impetus for it going forward. Thank you.

MINISTER PAYNE: Thank you very much. And thank you for your question and particularly your observations about the President's speech at the Import Expo. May I once again commend the expo for the engagement that it has brought in terms of the import focus. From Australia's perspective, we saw over 150 different companies representing 200 brands as part of the presentation in Shanghai this week and I have individually received very positive feedback from a number of the corporate leaders who were engaged in the expo itself.

So from Australia's perspective on what we can do into the future to develop the positive steps taken through the expo itself, we have very strong bilateral engagement, as you know, existing particularly in the trade and investment space. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to work together both with the State Councilor Wang Yi, with my Trade Minister colleague Minister Birmingham, to identify new opportunities, new markets and new interests from the Chinese perspective in Australian produce. We have had an opportunity to canvass some of those in our discussions today, but also to emphasise the strong government interest that exists from Australia in doing that.

Thank you, I mentioned in my remarks the value and the depth of our people to people links. More and more I find that the interest from Australia in terms of engagement in China and vice versa comes out of those foundational links developed over so many years. Whether it's through people studying in each country, whether it's through business engagement, and I think that they present an enormous jumping off point, if you like, for developing greater engagement. I will, as Foreign Minister, and I know working closely with our Trade Minister, work very closely with our agencies and with existing business organisations who already do so much good work in this space to enhance and develop those opportunities.

HOST: Next question please. Bill from ABC.

JOURNALIST: Bill Birtles from Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ABC. State Councilor Wang, first of all, today, Australia's Prime Minister has announced a $3 billion dollar South Pacific Infrastructure Fund with the aim of stepping up Australia's strategic role in the South Pacific. In your view, are Australia and China rivals for influence in the South Pacific and do any of the problems that caused such tension recently in the Australia-China relationship still exist?

And to Foreign Minister Payne, did China raise any concerns about recent decisions to block several major Chinese investments in Australia? How much of a stumbling block, in your opinion, is that issue in the improvement of the relationship? And on the issue of vocational training detention centres in Xinjiang? Did you express any concerns? And with great respect, I'd like to translate my own question.

STATE COUNCILOR WANG YI: [Through translator] First of all, the South Pacific island states are independent sovereign countries. They have their own foreign policies, and they are entitled to normal relations with any other country in the world.
In recent years the South Pacific island countries have maintained their traditional connections with countries like Australia, while at the same time they have also been seeking closer cooperation with other countries like China. And China, on our part, is also willing to respond to the needs of the Pacific island countries and engage in cooperation based on equality and for win-win outcomes.

China is happy to see South Pacific island states having more friends across the world. We are happy to see normal friendship and win-win cooperation between these South Pacific island countries and Australia and also with China.

An important common understanding I and Foreign Minister Payne have reached in our discussion right now is that China and Australia have our respective strengths when it comes to cooperation with Pacific island countries. And in this regard, China and Australia are not competitors, not rivals, but cooperation partners. And we have agreed that we could combine and capitalise on our respective strengths to carry out trilateral cooperation involving Pacific island states. And this kind of trilateral cooperation could become a new highlight, a new area in China-Australia cooperation, so that in our respective way, we can contribute to the development and prosperity in the Pacific island countries.

Indeed China-Australia relationship needs more positive energy and less negative energy. An important common understanding for Minister Payne and I have also reached today, is that China's development poses no threat to Australia, but represents opportunities, and our two countries have decided to continue to advance our relations and take concrete actions to promote our win-win cooperation and enhance our Comprehensive Strategic partnership.

In this regard the position of the two governments is already very clear and I hope our friends from the media, especially from Australian media, would give more objective and balanced coverage about China-Australia relations to highlight the positive sides and promising future of win-win cooperation between China and Australia. And it takes joint efforts of both governments and societies, various social sectors, including the media, to promote our bilateral relations and for it to embrace a promising future. In other words, the China-Australia relationship requires joint efforts of not only the two governments, but also the two societies, including friends from the media.


MINISTER PAYNE: Thank you, thank you very much. Let me start by, reinforcing the importance of Australia's welcoming of Chinese investment in Australia. It's worth noting, for example, that of Australia's top ten investors, China and Hong Kong SAR have experienced the largest growth over the past five years. So that is a fact and that is a very important aspect of our engagement. I can say, particularly in relation to perhaps the decision that you're referring today in terms of the Treasurer's announcement, that it is important to emphasise, and I know that the Treasurer has done this, that it is not an adverse reflection on the business itself, on CK group or its individual companies. Realistically, in fact, CK group companies are already substantial investors in Australia's gas and electricity sectors. They are significant providers of infrastructure services upon which millions of Australians rely every day. They have assets in a range of areas, in gas distribution, in transmission pipelines, in electricity generation in at least four States and the Northern Territory. So we absolutely welcome the Group's investments in Australia and their broader contribution to the Australian economy.

What the Treasurer has said today is that he has formed a view based on advice given to him, and considered by the Foreign Investment Review Board, that the acquisition of APA Group, however, would not be in Australia's national interests, would be contrary to the national interest. That's because it would result in an undue concentration of foreign ownership by a single company group, in what is our most significant gas transmission business. That is a consideration, which as a responsible government, we are required to take into our discussions and activities.

So this is the Treasurer's preliminary view as you would understand from the processes are that are required for such a consideration. We remain absolutely committed as a Government to welcoming foreign investment into Australia. It supports jobs. It helps us to increase living standards, and they, of course, are singular ambitions of the Government in all of its considerations and the Treasurer will make a final decision under the formal process within two weeks.

You also asked me whether we had discussed the issue of Xinjiang. And yes, we did exchange views on that matter.

STATE COUNCLLOR WANG YI: [through translator] China welcomes Australian Foreign Minister's reiteration that Australia welcomes the Chinese investment in Australia. This shows that we are open to each other. We don't hope this single individual case will affect Australia's attitude to China's investment.

Let me also say that China is firmly against terrorism and we will make every effort to prevent spread of terrorism on our own territory. We believe our efforts are not only in keeping with our own interests, but also the shared interest of the international community. And when it comes to combating terrorism, China's approach is one that combines combating with prevention. So we believe what we are doing is constructive and we hope the international community and friends from media will show more understanding and be more objective in looking at what we have been doing.

HOST: That's the end of press conference. Thank you.

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