Press conference, Beijing, People's Republic of China

  • Joint transcript with:
  • Anthony Albanese MP, Prime Minister
Subjects: Visit to the People's Republic of China; Australia's relationship with China; meeting with President Xi.

Anthony Albanese, Prime Minister: Well, it is wonderful to be here in Beijing following a very successful visit in Shanghai. The trade fair yesterday was a real highlight. Some 250 Australian businesses. What it shows is that trade is about Australian jobs. And that's what my Government is about. A Government has created, on our watch, over half a million jobs in under our first half of the term. More jobs created in our first term already than any previous new government in Australia's history since Federation. And what we saw yesterday was enthusiasm from every state and territory at that trade fair in Shanghai, the biggest in the world. And we also had successful discussions as well, including, again, the opportunity to have informal discussions with Premier Li.

Later today, I will be meeting Chairman Zhao and also President Xi. I look forward to constructive dialogue at those meetings. But this morning, it's been an opportunity to retrace history. The Labor Party does care about our history. And Australia cares about our history as well.

This is commemorating 50 years since Prime Minister Whitlam came to China to recognise, the first visit by an Australian Prime Minister to China following the recognition between Australia and the People's Republic of China, upon the election of the Whitlam Government.

It was this historic visit. And he visited, of course, this Temple of Heaven here. And so, it has been a real opportunity to retrace those steps prior to what will be two important meetings this afternoon and then a further important meeting tomorrow with Premier Li.

What I've said is that we need to cooperate with China where we can, disagree where we must and engage in our national interest. And I look forward to constructive discussion this afternoon, following on what was a very successful first meeting that I had with President Xi on the sidelines of the G20 and then successful meetings with Premier Li in Jakarta and then in New Delhi, that led to these meetings taking place.

I think there are promising signs. We've already seen a number of the impediments to trade between our two nations removed and an uplift already, substantial uplift, in the trade between our two nations in issues like barley already restarting. Barley arriving here, making a difference. What that means, again, is Australian jobs. And it's terrific to be here with the Foreign Minister.

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: Thanks very much, PM. It's fantastic to be here, back here in Beijing. It's my second time here as Foreign Minister. And I appreciate the opportunity to visit with the Prime Minister in this historic visit. Before the election, we said to the Australian people we would work to stabilise the relationship with China without compromising our sovereign interests. And that's what we've done. And we look forward to continuing to engage on many issues, including the continued removal of trade impediments and many other aspects. I'll have the opportunity to be with the Prime Minister but also to meet with Foreign Minister Wang Yi today. And I look forward to talking with him about how we can continue to navigate this relationship wisely. The history of Prime Minister Whitlam being here reminds us that whoever is in these jobs, it's incumbent upon us to seek to navigate this relationship wisely. And that's what we're here to do.

Journalist: Prime Minister, when Gough Whitlam came to China he was creating a relationship with a country and a diplomatic relationship. You're inheriting one. Obviously, the relationship cannot be as it was prior to 2016. How would you describe the relationship going forward?

Prime Minister: As important, in a word. China is our most important trading partner. It represents more than 25 per cent of our exports, and one in four of our jobs relies upon our trade. So, it's an important relationship. It has changed in 50 years. China has changed. Australia has changed. And the relationship has changed. We're dealing with strategic competition in the region. What is important, and what needs to be consistent, is the way that Australia deals with our international relations, that we're upfront, that we're respectful, that we deal through diplomacy, and reminded of Kurt Campbell's comments saying diplomacy is back. And we engage in that way in Australia's national interest. It is in our interests to have positive relations. There are differences. We have different political systems.

Journalist: Prime Minister, just a week ago, you were in the Rose Garden with President Biden when he said the undertakings from the Chinese had to be taken in a fashion of trust, but verify. Are you convinced that you can trust President Xi?

Prime Minister: I'm convinced that we're building a relationship that's a constructive one, where we're able to talk with each other directly. And in the discussions that I have had with him, the formal discussion, but the other discussions as well, they have been positive and respectful.

Journalist: Just further to Mark's question, trust, can you trust them?

Prime Minister: Well, we have different political systems. But the engagement that I've had with China with President Xi have been positive. They have been constructive. He has never said anything to me that has not been done. And that's a positive way that you have to start off dealing with people. But we recognise, as well, that we come with different political systems, very different values arising from that and different histories. But we deal with each other on face value. And we deal with each other representing. My job is to represent Australia's national interests. He is the leader of a different nation with different interests.

Journalist: On the Washington visit, that was very important to cementing the AUKUS Alliance. China has been incredibly critical of the AUKUS Alliance. They've actually tried to, I guess, stymie it in some international forums. What's your message to Xi Jinping about the need for Australia to be part of that AUKUS Alliance? Do you think China will accept a membership with that pact over time?

Prime Minister: Well, we're committed to AUKUS and we're busy implementing it. And that's what I mean by dealing with people honestly, upfront. We've been upfront about our engagement. We think that AUKUS is in Australia's national interests. We also think that AUKUS is a vehicle to promote security, peace and stability in the region.

Journalist: Prime Minister, will you invite Xi Jinping to Australia?

Prime Minister: Well, I'm having a meeting this afternoon, and I will report after the meeting about what what we discussed. Just a couple more.

Journalist: Prime Minister, one of the biggest fears in the region is that Taiwan will be some kind of flashpoint between China and the west over Taiwan. Can you clarify at this point after all of your international engagements your position on Taiwan's future, Australia's role if that was to become a flashpoint.

Prime Minister: We support the status quo.

Journalist: Prime Minister, some commentators are saying this is your most important trip, overseas trip, yet. Do you agree with that assessment? And what's your message to homeowners in Australia who are seeing you undertake all of this overseas travel and might be copping a rate rise tomorrow?

Prime Minister: Well, I'm not a commentator, so I'll leave that to others. What I say is that quite clearly, yesterday I was with 250 Australian businesses. That's about Australian jobs that has an impact on our economy, that has an impact on inflation, it has an impact on how successful we are. We are a trading nation. This is very much in Australia's national interest for us to be engaged just as it was in Australia's national interest for me to be engaged in the United States. Thank you very much.

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