Doorstop interview Jakarta, Indonesia

  • Transcript E&OE
Subjects: China trade impediments; PM China visit; Australians detained in China; Hong Kong.

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: I have just had a constructive meeting with Director Wang Yi out here in Jakarta. This is the, I think, fourth meeting in person and obviously on the last occasion he was hosting me in Beijing in December of 2022.

The government's made clear that we believe it's in both countries interest to stabilise the bilateral relationship. We've made clear that it's in both countries interest to continue to engage in dialogue. You've heard me say many times, we can grow our relationship and uphold our respective national interests if we navigate our differences wisely.

It was a frank conversation and it was a conversation in which a number of issues were raised. Certainly in relation to trade impediments, I acknowledged the progress we have seen in recent months and reiterated our expectation that this progress continues. We do believe it's in the interests of both countries for the trade impediments to be removed, as you would expect, and as this is our practice, we put forward our position on a range of issues, including relation to Australian nationals detained in China.

I'm happy to take questions.

Speaker: Minister, after tonight's meeting, what sort of expectations should Australia have about a Prime Ministerial visit to Beijing this year?

Foreign Minister: Well, as I said, I think in response to yours or one of your questions this morning, I think the Prime Minister has been invited to Beijing. We would hope for the most positive circumstances for such a visit.

Speaker: So do you think some of those conditions do need to change before you lock that in?

Foreign Minister: I think we will always continue to advocate to China for the removal of trade impediments and it is our practice, as you know, to ensure that we raise the circumstances of Ms Cheng Lei and Dr Yang as well as other Australians who are facing the death penalty.

Speaker: Did you raise at all the issue of the bounties on the two Australians?

Foreign Minister: Yes, we did discuss Hong Kong, and whilst I won't go through chapter and verse of everything that was said, you should anticipate it was consistent with what I've said publicly, and I've publicly have raised our deep concerns with the actions of the Hong Kong authorities. And I have said a number of times publicly, and I'll say it again now, that the Australian people and the Australian Government treasure freedom of expression, freedom of political expression, and the Government will continue to support those Australian citizens and those in Australia who exercise their right to freedom political expression.

Speaker: Can you give us an impression of what Minister Wang said in response to some of those issues? Like, is there any progress on –

Foreign Minister: I think it's fair to say –

Speaker: releasing Australians there or at least moving towards that?

Foreign Minister: In relation to the Australians detained, I think China is well aware of the priority Australia places on movements there and that's why the Prime Minister and I have continued to raise those particular cases in our interactions with our counterparts.

Speaker: Minister, China has called multiple times for Australia to meet it halfway. After you're meeting with Director Wang this evening, given all these outstanding issues, is it your belief that China is taking steps to meet Australia halfway?

Foreign Minister: Look, my view is we're seeing some progress on trade. We would like to see more. We think - we have said we want to stabilise the relationship, we want to engage. We're doing that. The way we talk about it is cooperate where we can, disagree where we must, and engage in our national interests. And intrinsic to that is the recognition that there are areas where we can cooperate and there are also areas where we will disagree. We are different political systems. We are countries with different interests. And part of the job of government is managing those interests wisely.

Thank you everyone.

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