Australia’s ‘frank’ dialogue with Beijing

By Melissa Coade

July 12, 2022

Penny Wong
Penny Wong speaks with Chinese foreign minister Wang at the the G20. (AAP Image/Pool, Johannes P. Christo)

Penny Wong has met with her Chinese counterpart at the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bali, describing the conversation as ‘frank’ and defined by careful listening. 

According to the foreign minister, Australia’s concerns about a range of bilateral, regional, trade and consular issues were raised with China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, last week. 

“Australia and China have gained much through the strength of our economic and people-to-people ties,” Wong said in a statement.

“We have our differences, but it is in both our countries’ interests for the relationship to be stabilised.”

Wong added that she ‘welcomed’ further discussion on mutual interests for both Australia and China, including prosperity, security and stability of the region.

“We believe it would be in China and Australia’s interest for this relationship to be stabilised, and that would require both parties to make a step.”

On Monday, the prime minister said Australia’s approach to bilateral relations with China would be determined by national interest. He described Wong’s meeting with Wang Yi as ‘constructive’ and a ‘step forward’. Australia had not changed its position on any issues, Albanese added.

“We will cooperate with China where we can. I want to build good relations with all countries. But we will stand up for Australia’s interests when we must,” the PM said.

The opportunity for the Thursday meeting with Wang Yi occurred at the end of a G20 meeting hosted by Indonesia. Also in attendance at the meeting was Russia’s representative, Sergei Lavrov, who walked out following international criticism of Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine

“Indonesia’s themes of strengthening multilateralism and addressing food and energy security couldn’t be more pressing, and those themes obviously sit within their broader theme, ‘Recover Together, Recover Stronger’ – such an important aspiration for the world,” the foreign minister told reporters.

Referring to Russia’s ‘illegal, unjust and immoral war on Ukraine’, Wong said the violence showed Russia had ‘chosen to denigrate and weaken multilateralism. She urged China, as a permanent member of the Security Council, to take a stronger position on Putin’s actions in line with UN Charter and international law.

“If you ever wanted an example of a nation which has demonstrated its willingness, its disregard for the need for food security for a world recovering from a pandemic, it is Russia and it is Russia in its persistent refusal to comply with the UN Charter and international law and its illegal, immoral invasion of Ukraine,” the foreign minister said.

In response to a question about settling trade disputes with China outside of the WTO framework, she said all punitive trade measures should be lifted.

“The Australian government believes, and I think the Australian people believe, that the trade measures that China has instituted against Australia should be lifted,” Wong said. 

Australia’s foreign minister has now flown to Fiji to attend the annual Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) with Pat Conroy.

“We will be participating at ministerial level, and myself as Prime Minister, having bilaterals with a range of countries there on Wednesday and Thursday,” Albanese said of the PIF 18-nation gathering.


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