Quad Summit: Anthony Albanese retains tough stance with China as he calls for end to tariffs
Anthony Albanese has sent a strong message to China during his first overseas trip to Japan as Prime Minister, urging Beijing to lift trade tariffs on Australia before he will take the country seriously.
The threat of China in the Indo-Pacific drove the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue summit among the leaders of Australia, the US, Japan and India in Tokyo on Tuesday.
It came a day after US President Joe Biden said the US would be prepared to take military action to defend Taiwan from China.
The new Prime Minister again thanked WA for his election victory during his press conference in Tokyo, but would not guarantee if he would repair Australia’s relationship with China to save jobs in the State.
Asked by The West Australian if he owed it to West Australians to fix the country’s dealings with Beijing, given his election win and the fact that one in four jobs in the State relied on China, he said sanctions needed to be removed before moving forward.
China put tariffs and restrictions on $20 billion worth of Australian exports in 2020 after the Morrison Government called for an international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.
The country is still Australia’s biggest trading partner, especially through the shipments of iron ore in WA.
“I was pleased with Western Australia and we made a good decision to hold our campaign launch there,” Mr Albanese said.
“With regard to our relations, look, Australia seeks good relationships with all countries but it’s not Australia that’s changed — it’s China.
“It’s China that has placed sanctions on Australia. There is no justification for doing that and that’s why they should be removed.”
Chinese media put Mr Albanese on notice ahead of his trip to Japan, reporting that his approach to the Quad meeting would be viewed as a test of his “political wisdom” after the “anti-China strategy” put forward by the Morrison Government.
In a major move marking the first gesture from China in two years, Mr Albanese confirmed he had received a note from Chinese Premier Li Keqiang congratulating him on his election victory, suggesting a possible reset in diplomatic relations.
“We will respond appropriately in time when I return to Australia,” he said.
“But it was a formal letter that went through. I welcome the congratulations I receive from all over the world.”
The Labor leader was also pressed on whether he backed Mr Biden’s comments for the US to take military action to defend Taiwan from an attack by China and if Australia would follow.
Mr Albanese said the US had not changed its policy on the issue.
“President Biden has confirmed there’s no change in the United States position and I confirm there’s no change in Australia’s position,” he said.
“Our position is there should be no unilateral change to the status quo. Our position has not changed.”
The Prime Minister said his incoming Labor Government would seek to build relationships across the Pacific and Asia in a renewed focus on the region.
“We want peace and stability in the region,” Mr Albanese said.
“That’s best achieved through proper diplomatic processes by making sure we build relations in the region and act in a positive way.
“The Solomons was discussed in the meeting, including the issue in which China is seeking to exert more influence in the Pacific. We know that’s the case. Australia is responding to that, along with the US.”
The Prime Minister used his diplomatic debut on the world stage and second day in office — just 24 hours after being sworn in as Australia’s 31st Prime Minister — to tell his fellow leaders his government’s “commitment” to the Quad had not changed.
But he pointed out that Australia would now be taking ambitious action to tackle climate change — setting a new target to reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, putting the nation on track for net zero by 2050.
He listed climate change as the main economic and security threat to the region including the Solomon Islands.
The war in Ukraine was also a topic of discussion with Mr Albanese saying Australia remained open to further requests for support as the nation faced attacks from Russia.
Mr Albanese said he had expressed Australia’s view that the Russian “unilateral, illegal, immoral attack” on the people of Ukraine was an “outrage”.
“The atrocities which are being committed on innocent civilians is something that we couldn’t have expected in the 21st century,” he said.
“We remain open to any further suggestions of support. This is something that Russia must pay a price for its actions. It’s as simple as that.”
Mr Biden told the summit in his opening remarks that the world was “navigating a dark hour in our shared history”.
“This is more than just a European issue, this is a global issue,” the US President said.
“It appears to me that Putin is just trying to extinguish a culture — he’s not even aiming at military targets anymore. He’s taking out every school, every church, every natural history museum, as if to try to obliterate the Ukrainian culture.
“And the world has to deal with it and we are.”
It has also been confirmed that Australia will host the next and third in-person Quad leaders’ summit in 2023.
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails