Australia The China files: how Morrison persuaded Europe to talk tough

06:25  18 june  2021
06:25  18 june  2021 Source:   smh.com.au

Scott Morrison to focus on international trade, climate policy in speech ahead of G7 summit

  Scott Morrison to focus on international trade, climate policy in speech ahead of G7 summit The Prime Minister is expected to call for reform of bodies such as the World Trade Organization in a foreign policy speech during a Perth stopover on his way to the G7 meeting of world leaders in the United Kingdom.He will also try to reframe Australia's climate change policies ahead of crucial meetings with world leaders in the United Kingdom this week, saying the government understands the world is embracing a new "net zero" emissions economy.

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French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Scott Morrison walk in front of the Elysee Palace in Paris. © Reuters French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Scott Morrison walk in front of the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Paris: When Scott Morrison left his hotel room last Sunday at the 18th century Tregenna Castle - a luxury Cornwall resort where he and other world leaders slept during the G7 summit - he made sure one important document was tucked away in his bag.

Conventional wisdom was that Morrison would be in for a rough time that morning when he sat down to debate tougher action on climate change. US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga all back targets of net zero by 2050 and Morrison's refusal to do so made him an RM Williams-shod elephant in the room.

Scott Morrison warns world allies of China trade, security threats

  Scott Morrison warns world allies of China trade, security threats Prime Minister Scott Morrison will urge world leaders to restore a World Trade Organisation penalty system in the face of China's rising economic threat.In a speech in Perth later today, Mr Morrison will also warn of the growing threat of conflict in the Asia Pacific before he heads to the G7 summit in the UK.

But the Coalition leader who once brandished a lump of coal on the floor of the Australian Parliament escaped without a scrape. He won't be so lucky at the big climate sumit, COP26, in Glasgow later this year. Perhaps the $16,000 the Australian delegation paid to offset the carbon emissions of their travel helped too.

Morrison later told reporters no country pressured him on his climate policies, or even asked to make them more ambitious. Sources from two other delegations involved in the discussions backed up this account.

Instead, the Prime Minister's big moment that Sunday came when he pulled out the document stashed in his bag. During a session dubbed Open Societies, Morrison tabled a dossier that Chinese diplomats had handed to Nine News reporter Jonathan Kearsley at a meeting inside Canberra's Hyatt Hotel last November.

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The document listed 14 grievances Beijing had with Australia, including restrictions on foreign investment decisions based on national security grounds, government funding for think tanks critical of China, and unfriendly reporting by Australian media.

By handing the dossier to Nine after months of radio silence at ministerial level, China perhaps hoped to pressure Australia to back down on some of its tougher tactics.

But Morrison instead took the list to some of the most important leaders of the free world to argue growing tensions in the Indo-Pacific were a problem even for geographically distant Europe.

"There is not a country that would sit around that table that would seek a concession on any of those 14 points as something they also would tolerate," Morrison said after the meeting.

After a slow start at the G7, those bolshy remarks and Morrison's surprise decision to table the dossier were the first signs of what the Prime Minister might achieve from the trip. By the time he landed back in Australia on Friday morning, his warnings about the Indo-Pacific had achieved strong cut through. Australia's plight is now on the radar of nations with less skin in the game.

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The biggest backing came during a meeting between Morrison and Macron at the Elysee Palace. France's historic interests in the Pacific mean Macron has a good ear for the tensions - he spoke about the geopolitical balance of the region at length during a Sydney visit in 2018 - but the forcefulness of his support for Australia this week took many observers by surprise.

Speaking of threats and intimidation, Macron declared Australia was at the "forefront" of the dispute in the region and pledged to stand by Canberra's side.

Video: PM Scott Morrison backed by UK and US on Chinese coercion (Sky News Australia)

"As a token of friendship and solidarity, and as we discussed together during the G7, we firmly reject any coercive economic measures taken against Australia in flagrant violation of international law," he said.

The speech raised eyebrows from those listening in, including assembled press who knew Macron had told an earlier summit in Brussels that he didn't think China was NATO's business. That same summit for the first time declared China poses "systemic challenges" to international order.

Scott Morrison says G7 leaders back Australia's stand over China

  Scott Morrison says G7 leaders back Australia's stand over China Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the leaders of G7 nations have a "strong level of support" for the stand Australia has taken against China as the three-day summit wrapped up in Cornwall. Speaking shortly before departing for talks with UK officials in London, Mr Morrison said there was increased awareness from European nations about tensions in the Indo-Pacific region and Australia had to be patient to restore its troubled relationship with China.

But a transcript of what Macron actually said at NATO is telling. Of China, he said: "It is much larger than just the military issue. It is economic. It is strategic. It is about values. It is technological."

Macron's lines were so similar to what Morrison has been saying for many months now that the statement could have been uttered by the Prime Minister himself.

Asked by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age whether a turning point had arrived in how countries view China, Morrison raised his eyebrows and said: "I think there is a growing awareness of the Indo-Pacific, full stop".

"It is so much more a factor in both the considerations and assessments of governments - not just strategically but economically as well, but also of the business community."

Morrison was also buoyed by a public show of support from Johnson, who during a Downing Street meeting promised to "stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends". But the British Prime Minister offered a note of caution by stressing nobody wanted to descend into a Cold War with China.

Johnson had earlier grappled with other G7 leaders over how hard to criticise Beijing in the summit communique for its human rights abuses and treatment of Australia. We only know this because Draghi, the Italian Prime Minister, told Morrison so at the start of their bilateral meeting. The only difference in views on China, Draghi explained in a recording of what was probably intended as a private exchange, was the "intensity" of the message to send.

Beijing accuses Nato of exaggerating China threat

  Beijing accuses Nato of exaggerating China threat It comes after a summit of alliance leaders described China's behaviour as a "systemic challenge".China's actions, including expanding its nuclear arsenal, threatened "rules-based international order", Nato said.

Italy stunned fellow G7 members when it signed up to Beijing's controversial Belt and Road Initiative in 2019 but the newly installed Draghi is clearing the way for a policy shift. He has been cool on the partnership for several weeks now but emerged from the G7 session so alarmed he pledged to review Italy's deal.

"It's an autocracy that does not adhere to multilateral rules and does not share the same vision of the world that the democracies have," he said.

In the end, the G7 rebuked Beijing for human rights abuses, its assault on Hong Kong and "non-market practices which undermine the fair and transparent operation of the global economy". It also included a reference to Taiwan for the first time, calling for peace across the Strait that separates China from its threatened island neighbour.

China accused the bloc of rich countries of attempting to dictating world affairs and said that the era of international diplomacy "was over". It called the United States, its superpower rival, "sick, very sick" for leading a coalition that had interfered in its internal affairs.

The statement was probably less than Morrison and an increasingly assertive Biden had hoped for but was a big step up from just two years ago in the French city of Biarritz when the rising superpower wasn't even mentioned by name in the G7 communique.

Backed up by his razor-sharp national security advisor Michelle Chan, Morrison deployed a simple strategy to explain to Europe the problems in the Indo-Pacific: China may not be an immediate security threat to remote nations but its pattern of behaviour presents a real risk to the health of all economies.

He hammered this home during a speech at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris - the final engagement of his trip. After being welcomed by former finance minister Mathias Cormann, Morrison told ambassadors that anti-market behaviour was a threat to their financial prosperity.

"The global trading system and rules-based order is under serious strain and threat," he said. "Meeting these challenges will require a degree of active cooperation not seen for many decades."

This week was just the start. But not a bad one.

Scott Morrison's secret G7 side trip to explore his family history .
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