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Transcript of doorstop: Lima Peru:19 November 2008



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MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS STEPHEN SMITH, MP

TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE

DATE: 19 November 2008

TITLE: Doorstop, APEC - Lima, Peru

SMITH: It’s quite clear the sentiment among foreign ministers is that it’s quite important that APEC make strong statements in support of the G20, in so far as the Doha Round is concerned. The clear sentiment among foreign ministers is that it’s very important that APEC Ministers make a strong recommendation to leaders that the time’s come for the Doha Round to be brought to a conclusion, and that’s the main topic of conversation for APEC for this week.

There’s a second reason why Australia’s presence in Peru is important. We’ve made it clear in recent times that we need to enhance our engagement with Latin America. That’s one of the reasons why, en route to Peru, I spent a day in Mexico in a formal bilateral with my Mexican counterpart. That follows on from visits to Australia by Brazilian Foreign Minister Amorim and Chilean Foreign Minister Foxley.

It’s become apparent to us that the people-to-people contact, the industry and commercial exchanges, the educational exchanges have gotten ahead of the inter-government contact. So Australia very much needs to enhance its relationship with South America, with Latin America, and that’s one of the strong reasons our presence in the APEC meeting is important to us.

Finally to come to your question, can I just say, it’s also provided the opportunity for me to have bilateral meetings with a range of my colleagues, and most importantly with some of my newer colleagues: Foreign Minister Nakasone of Japan, who I had a bilateral with this morning; the new Canadian Foreign Minister, who again I had a bilateral with this morning; Murray McCully [New Zealand], I’ll be talking to him tomorrow; and Foreign Minister Sompong from Thailand, I have a meeting with him tomorrow.

On my meeting with Foreign Minister Nakasone, we reaffirmed the strength of the economic and strategic and security partnership with Japan and we again agreed that we should seek to resolve the whaling issue by diplomatic means, both by bilateral diplomatic means but also by multilateral diplomatic means through the working groups of the IWC.

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QUESTION: Did anybody advance any new ideas or advance or concrete suggestions about how the Doha Round might be advanced?

SMITH: The sentiment articulated was foreign ministers should urge the leaders in their formal communiqué later in the week to direct trade ministers to meet before the end of the year to bring this to a successful conclusion. The Australian position of course has been clear for some time. We very much strongly support openness as far as trading arrangements are concerned. We strongly supported the benefits of a successful Doha Round before the global financial crisis and, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, now is not the time to have protectionism.

On the contrary, to maximise economic growth we need to be even more open. But a concrete suggestion is for APEC to reinforce what the G20 has done. Whilst the timing is coincidental we think it’s quite advantageous that APEC has come hot on the heels of the G20 meeting in Washington.

APEC of course, the original rationale, led by Australia, was for a trading and investment organisation in the Asia-Pacific. This is the century where we see economic influence moving to the Asia-Pacific region with the rise of China, the rise of India. The APEC economies make up nearly 50-60 per cent of global trade. It’s advantageous that APEC comes hot on the heels of the G20 and we as foreign ministers think that a strong message from the APEC leaders will reinforce what Australia regards as a good outcome from the Washington meeting.

QUESTION: It wasn’t so long ago people were throwing up their hands and saying Doha has failed, this is impossible.

SMITH: Well Australia has never said that. Australia has always said we regard it as very important to get a positive outcome and I know Simon Crean well, he’s not the giving up sort of fella. He has been just relentless, relentless in his pursuit of this issue and in pursuit of his colleagues. Of course Australia plays a key role as part of the so-called G7 negotiating team and Simon’s been a very forceful part of that.

QUESTION: How realistic is it? I mean it’s a very complicated negotiation.

SMITH: We got very close on the last occasion and we were deeply disappointed when it fell over really on quite a narrow issue. But the strategic need for it, the economic need for it now is even more compelling than what it was then.

QUESTION: There’s been a couple of other issues apart from Doha for when the leaders meet. There’s the APC proposal that Australia’s putting forward. What kind of reception is Australia expecting on that idea and can you tell us anything about

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this emergency management strategy that Australian and Indonesia are putting forward over the weekend.

SMITH: Well firstly on the Asia-Pacific Community initiative. As you know we’ve commissioned former Departmental Secretary and former Ambassador to Indonesia Dick Woolcott as an envoy. He’s been doing his consultations. The Prime Minister and I expect to receive an interim report from him in the near future.

In the bilaterals I had this morning it’s come up in conversations. I raise the point that the Prime Minister made, which is as we see economic and strategic and security influence shift in the Asia Pacific, is our regional architecture right for this century, for 2020 and beyond. And I’ve made an obvious point to one of my colleagues today, here we are meeting as APEC and India is not

here. So that conversation is ongoing and I think my colleagues have welcomed the fact that we have initiated the conversation and the Prime Minister will have that conversation with his own counterparts.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, you mentioned India. Has there been any move to reopen the issue?

SMITH: The moratorium is in place until 2010 and there’s been no suggestion that that timetable be advanced.

QUESTION: Just on the whaling issue - the Japanese are just being polite aren’t they? Has the Government actually made any genuine progress towards influencing the Japanese position on this? We have Buckley’s chance haven’t we?

SMITH: Well we continue to apply all diplomatic means. Our envoy, Mr Hollway, has done very good work and I thank Foreign Minister Nakasone for the reception that Mr Hollway has received. He’s had conversations at every level in Japan and we’re very pleased about that, but we continue to press the point, it’s a difficult issue between two nations.

Foreign Minister Nakasone and I agreed, as I had previously with Foreign Minister Koumura, that it was very important for two things to occur: that the disagreement over whaling not become an issue out of all proportion to the fundamental relationship and, secondly, that we do our best to resolve it diplomatically, and discussions are underway in the IWC. And not just between myself and Foreign Minister Nakasone, but also Mr Hollway’s efforts, and you would have seen the announcement over the weekend of the non-lethal scientific program that Mr Garrett is pursuing before the IWC. So we have by no means given up. It is a difficult issue between two countries to pursue.

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QUESTION: Is that the real secret to where you can have an influence, that is if the Japanese say they want to do scientific whaling they say you should do it in a non-lethal way?

SMITH: Well that’s the strength of the argument that Mr Garrett made over the weekend that if you’re pursuing a legitimate scientific pursuit as far as whaling is concerned, you don’t need that to be lethal.

QUESTION: Did Nakasone say anything about that?

SMITH: We spoke generally about our bilateral and multilateral efforts and Mr Hollway’s efforts as well.

QUESTION: And about the emergency management . . .

SMITH: Mr Rudd is about to make some remarks about that when he arrives and while he’s here and I’ll leave that to him.

QUESTION: Back to the financial crisis. I’m interested to know what your view is of the role of developing nations.

SMITH: One of the topics of conversation with foreign ministers when we met over breakfast this morning was in our view the importance of understanding that the global financial crisis has an adverse impact not just on developed economies but on developing economies. It was a very strong sentiment that was also addressed at the G20 meeting by leaders that we don’t want to do anything which will allow what we hope will be a short term financial crisis to get in the way of our long term structural ambition about the Millennium Development Goals. I also made the same point about climate change.

We don’t see the need to deviate from our Millennium Development Goals and on our election commitment to increase our development assistance to 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2015. Nor do we see the need to deviate from the need to respond to dangerous climate change. A number of my foreign ministerial colleagues have made the point that in adverse or bad economic circumstances it’s the developing countries that are impacted upon more adversely and developed economies need to be conscious of that - and we are - which was part of the commitment to not move away from the millennium goals.

QUESTION: And what about admitting countries like China or Indonesia to the global decision making bodies?

SMITH: Well China and Indonesia are both members of the G20 and Australia strongly argued for the G20 to be one of the international institutions that responded to the crisis. Our rationale for that was that you have a mix of North and South, East and West, developed and developing economies, but also, if you like, a mix of the economic powerhouses post-World War Two, the European and

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Atlantic powerhouses, but also the Asian and Pacific economies, Brazil, China, India, Australia itself, Indonesia.

QUESTION: Mr Smith, in Australia the Opposition seem to be sending a mixed message to the Obama Administration with the Opposition Leader repudiating what Mr Howard said last year [indistinct]. What’s your opinion on that?

SMITH: Mr Turnbull really has to bring his shadow ministers and his party members to brook. Frankly Senator Coonan’s remarks yesterday were quite extraordinary. And it’s not the first occasion we’ve seen one of Mr Turnbull’s parliamentary members - we saw Ms Bishop, we’ve seen Ms Coonan, we saw Senator Brandis - put their partisan political view ahead of the national interest which is the alliance relationship with Australia and the United States.

What Mr Howard said at the time he was Prime Minister was not questioned by any of his then ministerial colleagues. It was endorsed by Mr Nelson who was then the Defence Minister. Mr Turnbull was silent, Mr Downer was silent, Helen Coonan was silent. So all of those ministers were silent when the leader of the Liberal Party and then Prime Minister said that if Mr Obama, Senator Obama became President of the United States that would indeed be a red letter day for terrorists.

Mr Turnbull really needs to haul his colleagues over the coals and make it clear that the Liberal Party is prepared to put the national interest ahead of partisan political views.

QUESTION: I was just wondering whether you had made any overtures towards China at this meeting. Whether Mr Rudd would be making any bilateral interaction at this time?

SMITH: Well Foreign Minister Yang wasn’t there but he arrived later and was represented by officials. I’ll be doing a bilateral with Foreign Minister Yang tomorrow and we expect that to be a hugely productive conversation between Australia and China. I’m unsure whether the Prime Minister is seeing his Chinese counterpart but he spoke to him on a number of occasions by telephone but I’m unsure whether he’s actually seeing him.

QUESTION: On the matter of …(indistinct) Mr Rudd’s observation about Mr Bush’s lack of familiarity of the G20…

SMITH: I think that was an observation made by The Australian newspaper. Not an observation made by the Prime Minister or either the Prime Minister’s office, the President or the White House.

QUESTION: So none of this came up formally or informally in your discussion with Ms Rice at the time?

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SMITH: No. The Secretary of State was represented by the Deputy Under Secretary of State. But no the matter hasn’t been raised with me by US officials.

QUESTION: Is it going to be easier for Australia once the new Administration starts?

SMITH: We have a very productive relationship with the Bush Administration, firstly on the issue on which we strongly disagree: the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. They were withdrawn in a very professional and co-operative way. And secondly our relationship with the Bush Administration has been very professional. And I’ve worked very professionally with the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister has worked very professionally with the President.

We were very pleased that President Bush and President Sarkozy and President Barroso chose the G20 as the instrument and that reflected Australian arguments, Australian views. We will work professionally with the Bush Administration until January 20, 2009. The fact that the reporting of the telephone call has had no immediate or lasting effect is in my view thanks to the fact that Prime Minister Rudd was in the first 10 phone calls that Senator Obama as President-elect had.

QUESTION: Have you got any opinion who might be the new Secretary of State? Would you like to see Hillary Clinton as your opposite?

SMITH: I will obviously work happily with whoever the President-elect and the Congress endorses.

QUESTION: Has the shift in position on our Palestine issue come up at all in your discussions here?

SMITH: No.

QUESTION: APEC. Who’s going to be the next member country admitted?

SMITH: As they say in the trade, that’ll be a matter for the committee. The membership moratorium is in place until 2010 and I haven’t been involved in any discussions about admission of new members. Australia has in the past made it clear, and I’m happy to repeat it. We very strongly believe that India should be admitted to APEC as soon as possible.

QUESTION: There was obviously a lot discussion about Doha. Was FTAP [Free Trade Agreement of the Asia Pacific] mentioned at all?

SMITH: No.

QUESTION: Do you think that’s going to go off the agenda?

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SMITH: Well Simon Crean’s been doing a separate series of meetings and it may have been raised with him but it wasn’t raised in my conversations.

QUESTION: (indistinct)

SMITH: The American representative made a very made strong contribution to our meeting about the importance of the G20 decision to direct trade ministers to take immediate action on the Doha Round and he repeated that very strongly to the meeting of foreign ministers.

QUESTION: (indistinct)

SMITH: Well currently he’s working for the Bush Administration. He’s a member of the current Administration and working on behalf of the Bush Administration. He’s not to my knowledge part of the transition team.

QUESTION: Food security. Was that raised in the meeting at all?

SMITH: It was raised in passing in the context and one of my colleagues made the point that the global financial crisis is but another illustration of the need these days to confront challenges that face the international community in a regional and multilateral way. The global financial crisis, climate change, energy security, food security, it’s just another compelling argument in favour of regionalism and multilateralism and acting through institutions like APEC and the G20 and the United Nations.

QUESTION: People are saying this signifies a shift in power. The Prime Minister made the point the other day. Are you getting any feedback from countries that are at the table that weren’t before?

SMITH: I think one of the sentiments in the meeting of foreign ministers was precisely that. I wasn’t the only foreign minister to make it clear that whether it’s the global financial crisis, climate change or energy security, food security or disaster relief, protection against pandemics, terrorism, transnational crime, all these require cooperation regionally either through regional institutions or the United Nations in a multilateral sense.

[ENDS]