Doorstop interview, Shanghai
Topics: China International Import Expo
Journalist: Minister, tell us about Australia’s participation at the CIIE this year, why it’s important for Australia.
Simon Birmingham: Well China is Australia’s largest trading partner and we’re thrilled to have more than two hundred Australian businesses here, across food, wine, education, health services, a whole range of different sectors that are so important in terms of our economic relationship with China.
Journalist: It feels like there’s been quite a lot of momentum around the Australian Government, its relationship with China, in recent months, talk to us a little bit about the plans for the relationship going forward?
Simon Birmingham: China is a critical relationship for Australia, it’s our largest trading partner, it’s a huge economic partner, and we want to take it from what is already such a strong relationship and build it even further into the future. This whole event, CIIE, has been billed by China as a celebration of their forty years of opening up their economy, which has been so important to them, but also so important to Australia. And today we heard great news in terms of President Xi committing that he will further open the Chinese economy and that means more opportunities for more Australian businesses.
Journalist: What particularly struck you today from President Xi’s speech?
Simon Birmingham: I was really pleased to hear his commitment to further opening the China economy, his commitment to working through multilateral trading forums like the World Trade Organisation, his commitment in particular to ensuring that in the services sector, we saw more support for education and healthcare services to open up in China, which is a big opportunity for Australia. A commitment in terms of support for more effective digital trade and e-commerce, as well as a commitment overall, in terms of liberalisation agenda around trade and the protection of intellectual property. So we saw a range of different commitments that were very important, to distil it though, what was most important is that we’ve got clear commitments to policy from China, that continues to open the Chinese economy, that provides new opportunities for Australian businesses, and clear protections that it will all happen within a rules based framework.
Journalist: This takes place against an interesting backdrop of continuing rumblings between the U.S. and China over protectionism. Talk to us about how concerned Australia is about the brewing trade squabbling.
Simon Birmingham: We have consistently urged all parties to talk, not fight. To ensure that they work to get a positive outcome, rather than simply increase tariffs, which hurt consumers in each country and which ultimately will dampen the global economy and be bad for all countries. Now we continue to urge that to occur. I am pleased to have heard the sentiments coming from President Trump that out of his phone call with President Xi, there has been a positive indication in terms of the momentum there. We hope that that will enable further dialogue to happen around the G20 and that we could get an outcome that avoids the committed further increase to tariffs at the end a year, and preferably sees those tariffs that have been wacked on products taken off.
Journalist: Final question, you made some interesting comments in a piece I was reading earlier today about intellectual property and how that has been a bit of an issue historically, but then on the other hand I heard you say there have been encouraging noises today out of President Xi’s speech. Tell us your position today on China and intellectual property.
Simon Birmingham: All those who invest in developing high quality goods, services, products deserve to have those products protected according to sound intellectual property laws. It’s long been an irritant that intellectual property hasn’t always been as respected in China as we would want it to be. It’s pleasing to hear President Xi today commit to the fact that there will be further penalties in relation to intellectual property theft in the future, and we would urge China to be very thorough in terms of their enforcement of that regime, to give everybody confidence that you can bring your products to China, and that they won’t be stolen.