Press Statement with Her Excellency Angela Merkel

24 Apr 2018
Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Minister for Finance
International and Trade, Defence and National Security

Well, thank you very much Chancellor for your warm hospitality and friendship. You’re right, we have met on a few occasions now and talk over the phone regularly was well.

Our relationship has never been stronger. It’s wonderful to back in Berlin, back in Germany. I want to acknowledge the hard work of the Australia-Germany Parliamentary Group. I also acknowledge that on our side of course, our Finance Minister and of course, great friend to Germany, Mathais Cormann, who is here today.

We are both liberal democracies and you’ve emphasized the importance of maintaining the rules-based order, the rules of the road that ensure that might is not right. That is the foundation of our security and our prosperity.

We’ve both recently responded sternly, effectively in the face of the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, by expelling Russian diplomats. Australia was the only country outside of the EU and NATO to do so. But we, like you, recognise that the great, liberal democratic project is one that has been hard fought for and hard won. It must always be defended.

We are collaborating on trade, investment, science, technology, education and culture. Last year, the successful Australian cultural promotion highlighted and strengthened the extensive people-to-people ties, particularly in the arts and science.

You’ve stated once again your strong support for an Australian-EU free trade agreement. We’ve been speaking about that today at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Germany’s support for a modern and ambitious free trade agreement between Australia and Europe is absolutely critical. We welcome your support Chancellor and we thank you for it.

The EU of course is our second-largest trading partner, $98 billion in 2016 and as a bloc our largest source of foreign direct investment. So the benefits of a free trade agreement between Australia and Europe would be very, very tangible for Europeans and indeed for Australians.

This is a time when we need to state and defend our commitment to free trade. We in Australia, are no more than you in Germany, seduced by the calls for protectionism. We know that is a dead end.

Protectionism is not a ladder to get us out of a low growth trap, it is a shovel to dig it a lot deeper.

We have seen in Australia record jobs growth, in no small measure because of our economic policies which support free trade, open markets, enabling greater Australian exports and participation in the global economy.

We, of course, are closely aligned from a strategic point of view. We’ve talked about the response to the nerve agent attack. We face a number of other shared challenges.

North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons undermines the stability of our region and the world, while the importance and we welcome recent statements from North Korea must also see verifiable and tangible moves by the North Korean regime to de-nuclearise.  That is the key for that peninsula.

We agree with you wholeheartedly on the need for a political solution in Syria. It requires that the states involved to act responsibly. Russia and Iran must do more to bring to an end the horrific attacks by the Assad regime often on innocent civilians. It extends recently, for the second time, in the last few years using chemical weapons.

I look forward to closer cooperation on defence and national security. Yesterday I visited your Defence Ministry. Dr von der Leyen received us there and I was accompanied by my Defence Minister, Marise Payne. We inspected at Rheinmetall, the Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle, and as you know, we are going to equip our Army with the Boxer Vehicles, to be assembled, to be built in Queensland under a $5 billion contract. As well, Lürssen is designing and is going to build in Australia, our Offshore Patrol Vessels, building in Adelaide and moving to Perth again, that’s a $4 billion contract.

So deeper defence industry cooperation is being realised and delivers strategic and economic benefits to both our countries.

So Chancellor, thank you again for the very warm welcome. I always look forward to our discussions with you. You have provided such wise leadership and consistent leadership in defence of the values we share over many years.

You know, these are challenging times in the world today, but your leadership and your role here as the German Chancellor is absolutely critical as we confront the many challenges to liberal, democratic values that have been and must be hard fought for and hard won.

I know we share the same commitment to maintaining them in the years ahead.

Thank you very much.