Press conference, Beijing, China

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi; Australia-China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue; Trade; Cheng Lei and Dr Yang Hengjun; Human rights; CPTPP.

FOREIGN MINISTER PENNY WONG: Thank you. Look, as I said before, I'm very pleased to be here in Beijing in person on the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic ties between Australia and China. It is an historic day today and reminds us that the foundations of this bilateral diplomatic relationship were set by Gough Whitlam half a century ago. I've just had the privilege of holding the 6th Australia-China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue, a very constructive meeting with China's State Councilor and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi. It was our third face to face meeting since the Albanese Government took office. It's our fourth discussion and given the length of the meeting, it was a very good opportunity to discuss issues in greater depth.

The government's made clear that we believe it's in Australia's interest for our relationship with China to be stabilised. We've also made clear we believe it is in China's interest for the relationship to be stabilised. We'll be continuing to express the view that the comprehensive strategic partnership between Australia and China is architecture for dialogue and for engagement which will benefit both countries. We've continued to put the view that we are able to grow our bilateral relationship and uphold our respective national interests if we navigate our differences wisely. And that is the challenge for this generation, is to navigate those differences wisely. I did set out our positions on issues which I know are so important to Australians and are important to the government. Relevant consular matters, trade blockages, human rights, as well as regional security, international security and the norms and global laws which underpin our prosperity. We have agreed to maintain high level engagement and we've agreed to further dialogue in a range of those areas. I'm happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Minister Wong, the Ambassador to China today said that he's been vigorously raising the case that - to get consular officials in here to see Cheng Lei and Yang Hengjun. Did you discuss that and have the officials here said that will happen?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Look, of course I discussed Ms Cheng Lei and Dr Yang. We raised that in every senior level engagement that we are able to. And I've raised that in each of the discussions I've had with the State Councilor. And we advocate for a range of things in those discussions. They include for those Australians to be reunited with their families as soon as possible, but we also advocate for the observance of our consular agreements and for those Australians to have consular access. Obviously, COVID has presented some problems, but it is the case that Australia does believe that those Australians should be given appropriate consular access and we'll continue to advocate for that.

JOURNALIST: Minister, ahead of the meeting, you said having this dialogue in and of itself would be a successful outcome. Now that that's happened, what's the next step toward this path of stabilising the relationship with China? And are there any other outcomes that you can report from the meeting?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Look, we had a good discussion about a number of issues, and particularly in the context of trade, there was a discussion about opportunities for further dialogue to work through how we might do what I think is a message to both countries and consumers in both countries, and certainly in terms of Australian exporters and Chinese consumers. And that is for the trade blockages to be removed. I think the point I was making, and I'll continue to make, is dialogue is a prerequisite for managing this relationship wisely. We are very different countries, we are very different political systems, we have very different - have different views about how our political system should operate and we have different interests. But we need to seek to manage those differences wisely and dialogue is a prerequisite for that. So I am seeking, I have suggested, and I think this is something that is consistent with the approach that China is taking, that we have a more structured dialogue such as that which is envisaged under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, where there are a range of dialogues, including Trade Minister - Economic Minister's dialogue.

JOURNALIST: Just two things, would you expect the leaders meetings to resume under that? As in, could you foresee Anthony Albanese coming here to Beijing and next year?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, I think there are steps we are taking, and you've seen since the government came to office, we're seeking to take those steps calmly and in a considered way. We met - I met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi - State Councilor Wang Yi in Bali early on. We had another meeting at the UN General Assembly. We had telephone conversation. Obviously, the Prime Minister and President Xi met in the margins of the G20, which was very important. Now we've had this meeting. So, we will look to continue to have dialogue, including structured dialogue on issues which are difficult. Ultimately, we believe it's possible to grow our bilateral relationship, safeguard our national interests if we manage our differences wisely, and that's what the government's focused on.

JOURNALIST: Could you elaborate on the human rights issues you raised? Did that include the treatment of the Uyghur minority and also was South China Sea discussed?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Look, we obviously referenced global rules and norms, as I've said, and we'll have an opportunity to discuss more of that over dinner. But in relation to human rights, the position Australia articulates, Foreign Ministers before me have articulated, and I have articulated, is to say, look, Australia believes human rights are universal. We have a principled view about the observance and respect for human rights, and that applies in terms of our views about Xinjiang or Tibet or Hong Kong. That those are principles that Australia will continue to advocate. And as you would expect, I did so.

JOURNALIST: So just on trade. Would Australia support China joining the CPTPP as part of this discussion around trade blockages?

FOREIGN MINISTER: I've previously said in relation to the CPTPP, our focus is on the current UK accession and any economy that sought to join the CPTPP to ensure that all parties to the agreement are confident that it could meet its very high standards. Thank you very much.


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