Press Conference - Parliament House, Canberra - 20/03/2024

20 March 2024



Subjects: Australia-China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue; Australia’s relationship with China; Dr Yang Jun; Australia’s Ambassador to the United States.

PENNY WONG, FOREIGN MINISTER: Thanks very much for coming, as you know this morning, I hosted in this room, my Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for the Foreign and Strategic Dialogue. A stable relationship between Australia and China doesn’t just happen, it needs ongoing work, and this was the latest meeting in that process. As Minister Wang reflected in our meeting, it is both, in both our interests that we have a mature and productive relationship.

We discussed a range of shared interests and the progress we have made on outcomes agreed at the Sixth Foreign and Strategic Dialogue, including the recommencement of the bilateral Annual Leaders’ Meeting.

The Prime Minister looks forward to welcoming Premier Li to Australia. I’m pleased that this is on track, and we agreed on work to prepare for that meeting. We agreed to continue bilateral engagements on issues including consular cases, defence and trade, and to expand dialogue in key areas of importance, such as the Pacific, climate and energy cooperation and enhancing understanding and transparency.

The meeting was an opportunity for both the Minister and I to exchange frank views on issues that matter to us. We discussed the sentencing of Dr Yang Jun. I told the Foreign Minister, Australians were shocked at the sentence imposed, and I made clear to him that the Australian Government will continue to advocate on Dr Yang’s behalf. I also raised our concerns about other Australian death penalty cases. As you know, Australia opposes the death penalty in all circumstances for all peoples.

I welcomed the progress of the removal of trade impediments on barley, wine and other exports and, again, reiterated our desire for the removal of remaining impediments on beef and lobster. We discussed recent volatility in nickel markets and I made the point that predictability in business and trade is in all our economic interests.

As you would expect, I raised Australia’s concerns about human rights, including in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong. I expressed our concern – our serious concern – about unsafe conduct at sea, our desire for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in our region. I reflected the view of our region as outlined again and underscored again at the recent ASEAN summit about the importance of the South China Sea being governed by international law, particularly UNCLOS.

Obviously these topics underline that we do have important differences. Dialogue enables us to manage our differences. It doesn’t eliminate them, but this government in the interests of Australia will always seek to manage those differences wisely. As I said in the outset of my meeting, China will always be China, Australia will always be Australia. However, we want to continue to engage, to cooperate where we can and disagree where we must, and to manage these differences wisely.

I understand that there’s been arrangements made to structure this media conference with the international media. We might adopt this in Australia, but the first question I might go to is from The Australian, Mr Packham.

JOURNALIST: Thank you, Minister. We learned today that the government has now dropped its anti-dumping action against Chinese wind turbines. The Global Times says this shows Australia is distancing itself from the anti-China position of the US. Is this a quid pro quo? And could you update us on the latest on wine, beef and lobster? And will the government also adopt a softer position on China’s bid to enter the CPTPP?

FOREIGN MINISTER: In relation to the last part of the question, there’s been no change to the position I’ve outlined previously.

In relation to the assertion of – the earlier point you made, there’s no relationship between the wine dispute and the steel disputes. Obviously the wine issue has been dealt with through the WTO processes and associated negotiations. Minister Husic has made an evidence, has made a decision based on the apolitical and evidence based recommendation from the Anti-Dumping Commissioner. And Australia has made clear the independence of that commission and our trade remedy system.

As you know, there’s an interim decision on wine. We look forward to the timetable that has been outlined for the Chinese, by the Chinese side for the final decision on wine, and we continue to express our view, as I have since I became Foreign Minister, that we believe it’s in the interests of both nations for all trade impediments to be removed.

Thank you. Phoenix TV, Li Yiming.

JOURNALIST: Li Yiming from Phoenix Satellite TV. Many Chinese people believe that the bottleneck in Australia-China relations lies in Australia’s lack of trust in China. What kind of threat do you think China will pose to Australia? And Australia and China have large trade relations and go well, but there are many restrictions on science, technology and education. I’d like to ask: in such an atmosphere, do Australia-China relations only seek uncertainty rather than development? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, the first point I’d make is I think stability is a good thing, and we seek a stable and productive and mature relationship with China. This is, you know, consistent with what we have said. Prime Minister Albanese and Premier Li reiterated the importance of a stable and constructive bilateral relationship. And I think it is important for us to recognise how much progress we have made in a short period of time. We’ve resumed the Foreign and Strategic Dialogue and The Annual Leaders’ Meeting. This is really important. As I said, Australia will continue to be Australia; China will continue to be China. We are bound by geography, by history, by our peoples, by our trade. We know that there are differences that arise out of who we are and we want to manage them wisely.

We’ve resumed trade talks and economic talks. We have consultations on consular issues, defence and climate. We’ve commenced technical cooperation on climate-related matters, and our police work together to counter narcotics trafficking and transnational crime. We’ve welcomed the Education Minister here to Canberra and now the Foreign Minister. So there’s been a lot of progress in the relationship in a short space of time. And that is a good thing. And we’ll continue to engage. We think it's in our national interest to engage, just as there will be issues on where we cooperate and issues where we can disagree.

Sorry, Chloe Bouras from Network 10. Chloe.

JOURNALIST: Thank you, Minister. You mentioned that you continue to advocate for Dr Yang. Can you just clarify what exactly are you advocating for? Is it for the death sentence to be lifted or is it, you know, for him to be allowed to return home? And obviously you discussed quite a range of topics and on a very different tone I have to ask as a South Australian, will Adelaide Zoo continue to have pandas for years to come?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Firstly in relation to Dr Yang – we will continue to advocate on his behalf and I reiterated that Australians found the sentence imposed shocking. I don’t propose to outline every aspect of what we put on Dr Yang’s behalf in the media, but I would say to you I did, as I told the media I would, when the sentence was handed down, that we will not walk away from our advocacy for Dr Yang Jun.

On the pandas, there’s obviously further arrangements to be finalised, but I think the news of the likely continuation of panda presence in Adelaide Zoo has been reported. And I did say to the Foreign Minister that my children would be very pleased.

JOURNALIST: So is it a bit of a done deal, then?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, there’s further arrangements to be put in place. But I think we’re on a good path there to continued panda presence.

Ye Zhihua from TVB.

JOURNALIST: Yes, good afternoon. So this morning, Foreign Minister Wang Yi mentioned China will announce the decision on the Australia wine tariff in May.


JOURNALIST: So may I ask how impactful you expect it to be on the wine industry as well as the economy of Australia? Another concern would be lifting the trade restriction on lobsters, so may I ask what’s the progress about it so far? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER: Sure. Well, we think it’s very, you know, we’re very proud of our wine and our lobster and our beef, and we think Chinese consumers would benefit from all of those products having access to the Chinese market without any impediments. That’s been the position we’ve put for some time. As I said to your colleague earlier, on wine, we welcome the interim decision. We look forward to a final decision. As a South Australian I am particularly interested in ensuring that we get access for our fantastic Australian wine and also lobster, which I know is something that is enjoyed by all. We will continue to advocate for all impediments to be removed. We think it’s in both countries’ interests.

Sorry, did I miss any part of your question?

JOURNALIST: How about the lobsters? Any progress so far?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, I think that’s probably a question to the Chinese authorities. We’ve continued to press for all impediments, including in relation to lobster, to be removed. But obviously we look forward to that occurring.

Okay, Matthew.

JOURNALIST: Minister Wong, Donald Trump this morning was asked about past criticisms that Kevin Rudd, Australia’s Ambassador to Washington, had made of him and Trump replied, ‘I heard he was a little bit nasty. I hear he’s not the brightest bulb, but I don’t know much about him. But if he’s at all hostile, he will not be there long.’ Does this show that it was a mistake or at least very risky for the government to appoint Kevin Rudd as Ambassador given his comments were well known and Donald Trump had already declared his candidacy at the time? And, secondly, will the government keep Kevin Rudd as Ambassador if Donald Trump returns to the White House?

FOREIGN MINISTER: In relation to the latter, the answer is yes. In relation to the former, what I’d say is this, even Mr Dutton has expressed confidence in Mr Rudd. Mr Rudd is a very effective Ambassador. He is recognised across this parliament as doing an excellent job in advancing Australia’s interests in the United States. And I’d point you in particular to the phenomenal amount of work which has been done on AUKUS in the period that he’s been Ambassador. He’s been extremely active in engaging with members of Congress on both sides of politics and he is, you know, a former Prime Minister, a former Foreign Minister. His experience and skills mean he will be able to work closely with whomever is elected by the American people as the United States President.

Wang Shuo from CCTV.

JOURNALIST: Wang Shuo from CCTV. Thank you for having me here. So my first question is: what are the major consensuses that Australia and China reached today after the meeting with Mr Wang Yi, and what are the specific matters do both sides agree to further strengthen the relationship between Australia and China? And my second question is actually regarding to you last week when you were at the AFR Business Summit 2024. I was there as well. I remember the keyword you also just mentioned – stabilise – stabilisation. So besides this keyword, I’m wondering, do you have any other keyword on your mind now after your meeting with him today? Yeah, so, thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, look, I’ve gone through some of the points that were discussed in the meeting, and I would make the point that we were pleased that we are on track for a Premier Li visit. And one of the important things that we did agree was to ensure that both sides work together to prepare for a visit, which the Prime Minister is looking very much forward to welcoming the Premier here.

Those high-level visits and high-level engagements are a very important part of the relationship. They enable – the face-to-face discussion is – it’s not just, you know, having a discussion, it’s actually understanding where both sides are coming from. It’s important to have that ballast and stability in the relationship.

As I said, we obviously want a productive relationship with China. We obviously want a mature relationship with China, and I think that is shared. I think that is shared. So I’m very pleased that the Foreign Minister made time to come to Australia. I know he has a punishing schedule, and I look forward to the next Foreign and Strategic Dialogue in China. I did express to him that this time we might not try and go in the middle of the Beijing winter, because that was quite chilly, which I’m sure some of the travelling media will be happy with.

Thank you very much.


Media Contact:
Foreign Minister's Office: +61 2 6277 7500

Authorised by Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia.