PM to sound out Biden over TPP as China vies for entry – The Australian Financial Review

Credit: Original article can be found here

While Australia views China’s entry as an opportunity to encourage Beijing to be a better international citizen, Trade Minister Dan Tehan suggested entry would be conditional on Beijing ending its economic coercion against Australian exports and re-engaging with the Morrison government on trade at a ministerial level.

“As we have conveyed to China, these are important matters which require ministerial engagement,” Mr Tehan told AFR Weekend.

For China – or the US – to join, the 11 members of the pact must agree to launch accession negotiations and “be confident that the candidate would meet, implement and adhere to the high standards of the agreement and has a track record of compliance with its commitments in the WTO and existing trade agreements which it is party to”, Mr Tehan said.

“CPTPP parties would also want to be confident that an accession candidate would fully implement its commitments under the agreement in good faith,” he said, referring to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

We’re focused on what we need to do to protect Australia’s national security, to work with our partners.

Scott Morrison, defending the formation of the AUKUS alliance

Australia’s conditional acceptance of admitting China is likely to further inflame tensions between the nations, which reached a new height on Thursday when Mr Morrison, Mr Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched the AUKUS trilateral defence pact.

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The three leaders will formalise the agreement in person at the White House on Wednesday morning, Australian time, after Mr Morrison’s meeting with Mr Biden.

The visit will culminate on Friday with the first face-to-face meeting of the leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – Australia, the US, India and Japan – a regional security alliance to check Chinese assertiveness.

At the same time, Mr Morrison will deliver a pre-recorded video address to the United Nations General Assembly, which will be meeting in New York City.

Indonesia takes ‘cautious note’

Climate change will feature in the talks. Mr Morrison will hold the line that technology was the best way to reduce emissions and actions were more important than hollow commitments. He will reserve any policy changes until the lead-up to the November UN climate change summit in Glasgow.

China reacted angrily to the AUKUS announcement, describing it as an irresponsible act that would intensify the arms race and which “gravely undermines regional peace and stability”.

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Indonesia also reacted cooly to the arrangement that is supposed to safeguard its sovereignty, and that of other ASEAN nations, against China.

In a statement, Indonesia’s foreign ministry said it had taken “cautious note” of the pact but was concerned by the “continuing arms race and power projection in the region”.

It said differences were better settled with dialogue and respect for the rule of law.

“Indonesia stresses the importance of Australia’s commitment to continue meeting all of its nuclear nonproliferation obligations,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Indonesia underscores the respect for international law, including UNCLOS 1982, in maintaining peace and security in the region.”

Mr Morrison defended the pact, which he initiated, and which will result in Australia acquiring at least eight nuclear-powered submarines, missiles and other weapons as part of a ramp-up in defence spending.

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“We’re focused on what we need to do to protect Australia’s national security, to work with our partners.”

Mr Morrison said there was no justification for China to use it as a reason for further trade and economic sanctions against Australia.

“I couldn’t see how that could be justified,” he said. “We always have to be resilient. We always have to do what’s in Australia’s national interests, and that’s what this agreement delivers.”

China’s formal application to join the TPP came on the same day that AUKUS was announced.

Although it could take years for China’s application to be decided, with many members of the bloc concerned about Beijing’s aggressive foreign policies, the move adds a new dimension to regional tensions.

China last week wrote to an Australian parliamentary inquiry arguing why it should be allowed to join. Its formal application on Thursday was posted online by China’s commerce ministry.

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Commerce Minister Wang Wentao spoke with NZ trade minister Damien O’Connor by telephone. New Zealand is the depositary nation for the bloc.

China has made the move despite having slapped tariffs or restrictions on $20 billion of Australian exports. Australia and the US said in a statement on Friday they were committed to working together to “oppose the coercive use of trade and economic measures that undermine rules-based trade”.

There will be political resistance to China joining due to scepticism about its willingness to abide by international trade rules, and rising regional security fears, but its economic weight might be attractive to many bloc members.

Several members, particularly Australia and Canada, are involved in diplomatic stand-offs with China over trade and other issues, including the detention of two Canadian citizens. Britain has also sought to join the bloc.

China’s relationship with Vietnam, another member, is tense due to Beijing’s territorial claims in its waters.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has previously said China would need to meet the bloc’s standards to join. Japan, like many members, wants the US to rejoin the partnership to counter China’s influence in the region.

Analysts said China’s application would create tension within the bloc and face stiff opposition on many fronts, including provisions relating to the behaviour of state-owned enterprises and the protection of intellectual property.