Press conference - Bali, Indonesia

15 Nov 2022
Prime Minister
Bilateral meeting with Xi Jinping; Australia-China relationship; Ukraine; trade; climate change; G20 Summit.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: It was a great honour this morning to address the G20 meeting. And during the day, I had bilateral, formal and informal meetings with a range of world leaders - advancing Australia's national interest, building relationships, which is so important to Australia as a middle-sized power at G20. This afternoon, I've just concluded a successful bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. It was a very positive and constructive discussion. And I was pleased that it was held. We know that China is Australia's largest trading partner. They are worth more than Japan, US and Republic of Korea together combined. So, it's an important relationship for Australia. And Australia seeks a stable relationship with China. We have big differences to manage. But we're always going to be better off when we have dialogue and are able to talk constructively and respectfully, but also honestly, about what those differences are. And we were able to do that this afternoon.

Today, I think both countries took an important step to moving forward. There are many steps, of course, that we are yet to take. And where I have said consistently, since before I became Prime Minister, we will cooperate where we can, disagree where we must, and act in the national interest. One of the things that struck me was that both of us spoke about how we have highly complementary economies. It is clearly in Australia's interests to export some of the fine products that we have. It's in China's interest to receive those fine products. And so, it was a very constructive discussion. I think it was a positive development in our relationship as we approach the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and the People's Republic of China that, of course, occurred post the Whitlam Government's election that we will celebrate with the opening of Gough's House in Cabramatta, on the Second of December. But also, of course, the signing that came into effect on the 21st of December 1972, when our respective ambassadors signed the agreement to recognise each other in Paris. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: In terms of tangibles from the discussion, was there any mention of resuming the Annual Leadership Dialogue we used to have with China or the Blinken visit to China, which came out of the Biden talks? Are there any suggestions for your Ministers, Senator Wong and Farrell?

PRIME MINISTER: We agreed that there'd be further dialogue. There, of course, already has been meetings between our Foreign Ministers and our Defence Ministers. And we agreed that was a positive thing. The Foreign Minister was there at the meeting along with other senior officials from China, as well as our Head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and our Head of Foreign Affairs. So, I would expect that there will be further meetings.

JOURNALIST: You said a minute ago that this afternoon you were able to communicate honestly as leaders and peers and also articulate differences. What differences did you articulate?

PRIME MINISTER: I put forward Australia's position when it comes to the blockages in our trading relationship. I put forward the differences that we have on human rights issues, including Xinjiang. I put forward, specifically, as well, the cases of Cheng Lei and Dr Yang. And I also put forward our position on Ukraine and asked that China exercise its influence on Russia, specifically about Russia's threats to use tactical nuclear weapons. I noted that China had called that out. And that is a good thing.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the $20 billion question, was there any sign of a concession from President Xi on the trade embargoes?

PRIME MINISTER: It was a positive discussion. We put forward our position. It was not anticipated that a meeting such as that, that you get immediate declarations. I believe if people thought that would happen, then that was not realistic. But it was very constructive.

JOURNALIST: I was going to ask about a potential Penny Wong visit. But I think you answered that.

JOURNALIST: You talked about next steps. And also, in the lead-up to the visit, the Chinese side talked about Australia needing to meet China halfway. Was there any discussion about any concessions or conciliatory moves on Australia's part? And what are the next steps in terms of, is there a date for further talks, or are we going to take another six months to work it out?

PRIME MINISTER: I put forward Australia's position. And that's what I do. That is the way I deal with people. And I put forward our position very clearly, my view. I've used the language of moving forward together is the language that I used.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, should we read anything into the fact that the meeting was 32 minutes long? And did you raise issues of climate change, cybersecurity, foreign interference, and any actions on any of those matters?

PRIME MINISTER: I certainly raised climate change and the need for us to work together in tackling climate change. I referred to the floods that are occurring in New South Wales. That climate change is a global issue, and it requires a global response. And China has an important role to play. On Taiwan, I certainly raised that issue. I put Australia's position, which is support for the status quo, which I put forward in the meeting, and that we didn't wish to see any change to that status quo.

JOURNALIST: And sorry, the first part of the question, 32 minutes?

PRIME MINISTER: Now you're sneaking in a second there.

JOURNALIST: Should we be reading into the length of the meeting? Did he end it?

PRIME MINISTER: No, it went overtime than what was scheduled. And it was very constructive. The media were present for our opening remarks. The President then spoke, I spoke, and we had a dialogue and responded to each other's comments. It was a warm discussion. The President spoke about his visits to Australia very warmly, the fact that he has visited every state and territory in Australia. He pointed out that Tasmania was the last state that he hadn't visited. And he spoke about his visit there in 2014.

JOURNALIST: Was there any indication from the President that he will consider lifting trade sanctions?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, we put forward our position. And he said that we have highly complementary economies. So, we used similar language in that. But it is not that sort of process. This isn't a discussion at a commercial level. The system doesn't work that way. And it was a very constructive discussion is how I would put it. Australia's position is very clear. I put the position, clearly, firmly, but politely. And that is what I intended to do. And that's what I did.

JOURNALIST: Beijing in the past has raised concerns about how AUKUS and they've raised concerns about Australia speaking out publicly on human rights issues. Did President Xi raise that with you and what did you respond on those issues with?

PRIME MINISTER: No, AUKUS was not raised in the discussion.


PRIME MINISTER: No, that was not raised in the discussion.

JOURNALIST: Any strategic rivalry issues?

PRIME MINISTER: No, it wasn't raised, except for in general comments. People are aware, it was acknowledged, that we have differences. We have different systems. And our system works differently from the Chinese system where we're in an open democracy and therefore, this is part of our process that we have of our system. We acknowledge that there are differences there, but that we need to be open and honest about those differences going forward.

JOURNALIST: You raised the cases of Yang Hengjun and Cheng Lei. Did you get any undertakings from the Chinese President about how he would be looking at those cases, considering that both of them have been shrouded in secrecy for many years?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it was acknowledged that we had raised those issues. But you shouldn't expect, or, even with respect, expect that you have a meeting like that and we put forward a position and they come up with a conclusion. That's simply not the way that the system works.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you said going into this that you wanted to stabilise Australia's relationship with China. What did you take away from that meeting in terms of a potential stabilisation of that relationship? What might it look like? And Mr Xi's opening statement said that he had noted you, 'Approached the China-Australia relations in a mature manner, and I attach great importance to your opinion'. So, on that stabilisation, to what extent that has been directly a result, potentially, of your Government's approach to China?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I try to act in a mature way in all of our international relations. That's what we need to do. And one of the things that I've said is that we need to not try to score domestic political points through our international relations. I deal with things in Australia's national interest. That's what I've done as Prime Minister. And that's what I'll continue to do. I thought it was a very constructive discussion. And it was a positive development.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the Ukraine War, did you join other world leaders in trying to urge China to intervene in some ways. Did you have a message on that front?


JOURNALIST: Are you able to tell us more about what you said?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, yes, I asked that China use its influence on Russia. I pointed out that the war in Ukraine was having an impact on the global economy and directly having an impact, which it is, on Australian energy prices and inflation.

JOURNALIST: How was that received? And do you expect there will be a strong communique at the end of the G20 Summit?

PRIME MINISTER: The communique is being worked on. And I expect that it will be released appropriately. And you'll get to see it at the same time. Thanks very much.