G20 Doorstop, New Delhi, India

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Foreign Ministers' G20 Meeting and bilateral talks; Australia-China relationship; Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; Indian Prime Minister Modi’s G20 address.

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: Can I say, it's great to be here in New Delhi at the Foreign Ministers' Meeting for the G20. And I want to express at the outset what I have said to the External Affairs Minister Jaishankar privately, and also have said publicly in the meeting today that Australia strongly supports India's chairing of, or presidency of, the G20, and we regard our partnership with India as crucial for us and for our region.

I've had the opportunity to have a number of bilaterals today and yesterday. I've had conversations with Dr. Jaishankar, I've had discussions with Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu from Türkiye, Singapore, and, of course, the bilateral with the new Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China, which I have just left.

I'll make a couple of points about the context in which this G20 is occurring. We're here at a time of great global complexity. We here at a time of geostrategic competition, which is causing disruption to global markets. We see rising energy insecurity and food insecurity. We see regional instability. India's theme of One Earth, One Family, One Future is a reminder of what we share and an opportunity to reflect anew on what kind of world we want and to work for it.

I've just come out of a meeting with Foreign Minister Qin Gang, which follows my discussions with the former Foreign Minister, now Director Wang Yi, in last year's visit to Beijing. As I've said previously, I will continue to assert that Australia can grow, both parties can grow our bilateral relationship while safeguarding our national interests, if we both navigate our differences wisely. I was grateful for the opportunity to engage on important matters, including trade, human rights and consular matters, as well as Russia's invasion of Ukraine. I'm happy to take questions.

Journalist: Can I just ask a bit more detail in relation to those issues, start with trade, perhaps there's some warming on that?

Foreign Minister: Well, look, we know that trade impediments exist, and we have expressed publicly the view that it would be in both countries interests - sorry, mate, you're in shot, I think - we've expressed the view that it would be in both countries interests for those trade impediments to be removed. And while I'm not going to go into chapter and verse, you should anticipate that what I said in the meeting was consistent with what I have said publicly.

Journalist: What was Australia's response to China's attempt to broker peace in Ukraine?

Foreign Minister: Look, can I first say that the responsibility for what is occurring in Ukraine and its consequent effects on global energy and food insecurity as well as the devastation we are seeing and the suffering of the Ukrainian people, lies at the feet of Russia. And we must never forget that. And we must never resile from that. What I would say in relation to what China has said. China is a member of the P5. I've previously said that the world does look to China for its responsible leadership when it comes to Ukraine, particularly given its close relationship with Russia. I would note that President Zelenskyy himself has said he wants to believe that China will do the right thing and not supply weapons to Russia. And that is not only Australia's call, but the call of all countries.

Journalist: Minister, did the conflict on the India-China border come up? That's something that Australia has been watching quite closely.

Foreign Minister: Look, obviously that's an issue that is often traversed, particularly in our discussions with India. It's something India seeks to deal with strategically and wisely. And I know that it is something that occupies the discussions between those two nations a great deal. But I don't propose to comment further on it.

Journalist: I just want to clarify the comments from yesterday –

Foreign Minister: Which, sorry, my comments?

Journalist: Sorry, the comments you made yesterday in response to whether Australia is concerned about press freedoms and attacks on minorities in India. You said Australia has engaged with the Indian system from those issues. Is Australia concerned and what did you mean?

Foreign Minister: Look, what I would say is this; Australia supports the principles of the UN Charter, the principles of the International Declaration on Civil and Political Rights. We are a country that does not walk away from our support for human rights. Of course we engage with all countries appropriately about our support for human rights. But I don't - no and I have said to you, we have engaged with the Indian system. But I don't believe that that engagement is always something that needs to go through media outlets, which is why I answered the question yesterday and I'm providing the same answer today.

Journalist: Can I just ask about multilateralism?

Foreign Minister: Sure.

Journalist: Dr. Jaishankar said this morning the international order was broken, wasn't dealing with –

Foreign Minister: Prime Minister Modi. Yeah, in crisis. Look, I listened very carefully to the Prime Minister's articulation and he spoke about the challenges multilateralism is facing and he spoke about what the international order was founded to preserve, which is obviously to preserve the peace, but also to ensure development and prosperity. And on all of those fronts we see challenges. But I think if you look at what the Prime Minister said, and if you look at what the vast majority of ministers in the room said - although I'm conscious the press aren't in the room. I think there is a very clear understanding that as challenging as this world is, there is no path to address the challenges we share unless we do so multilaterally. There is no path. Whether it's climate change, whether it is food crisis or energy insecurity, we have to work on these together, whatever our difference.

Journalist: Just quickly. Prime Minister Modi also said that developing countries are being affected the most by these issues, including the war. Are they getting enough of a voice in a forum like this which prioritises major economies?

Foreign Minister: Look, I think that is a reasonable question. And I've said, Australia has said, that we do believe that multilateral institutions, we do believe that the UN Security Council and other institutions need reform to ensure that the perspective of developing countries is heard and is responded to equally. One of the points I made in my intervention was I talked about, for example, the effect on gender equality and the extent to which the effect that we've seen on development because of these crises, how that is felt more by the women of the world and particularly the women in developing countries. Now, those are perspectives that ought to be responded to by the G20 and by the institutions. Thanks very much.

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