Australia Has First Bilateral Meeting With President Trump at G-20 Summit

June 27, 2019 Updated: June 27, 2019

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison and President Donald Trump have met for a working dinner during which their teams discussed trade, Morrison’s election victory, and Iran and North Korea on the eve of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

The meeting with Australia’s new prime minister was the first Trump held after his arrival in Osaka just a few hours earlier.

Perhaps as a sign of things to come, Trump tweeted some border protection fliers dating back to Morrison’s time as Australia’s immigration minister, in what appeared to be a nod to the Australian leader as he left the United States for Osaka.

At the dinner, Trump was quick to congratulate Morrison, this time in person, on his “tremendous victory” at the Australian federal election in May.

“He didn’t surprise me, but he surprised a lot of other people,” Trump said. “I knew him. So I said, ‘You’re going to do very well.’ And he did.

“They called it an upset, but I don’t call it an upset … I want to congratulate you very much, it was a fantastic thing.”

Morrison then told Trump that “there’s no better or stronger or deeper relationship than the United States to Australia.”

While the press were still gathered in the dining room, Sky News chief political reporter Kieran Gilbert asked Trump whether his policy of “America first,” often labelled by legacy media as “protectionism,” was hurting allies like Australia.

“Well, I think I can say very easily, we’ve been very good to our allies,” Trump responded. “We work with our allies, we take care of our allies.

“We, generally speaking, have inherited massive trade deficits with our allies,” he said with a chuckle, “and we even help our allies militarily.

“So we do look at ourselves—and we look at ourselves, I think, more positively than ever before—but we also look at our allies, and I think Australia is a good example.

“We’ve worked together very closely,” Trump said of the Australia-U.S. relationship, adding that a recent situation over tariffs on Australian steel and aluminium imports had “worked out very well for both of us” because of their close cooperation.

Addressing challenges to economic growth stemming from trade uncertainties due to the ongoing U.S.-China trade war will be a top priority for many countries attending the summit this weekend.

Morrison told local media before leaving to Osaka on June 26 that despite the “serious strain” in the trading relationship between “the world’s two most important economies,” he was “optimistic” about the G-20 as it represented an opportunity for the United States and China to re-engage.

Trade talks between the two economic superpowers stalled in May because Beijing backtracked on its commitments to address structural issues, such as intellectual property theft, subsidization of state-owned enterprises, and forced technology transfers.

“I think it’s important for both to come to the table, recognise that there are some genuine issues,” Morrison said. “The rules-based system is in need of urgent repair if it is to adequately respond to these new challenges, including the rise of large emerging economies, changing patterns of trade and new technologies.”

But he told media commentators that rather than choosing sides in the trade dispute, his government would be “rejecting the fatalism of increased polarisation and resisting the analysis that only sees these issues through a binary prism.”

In a rebuke to legacy media reporting, Morrison said the “binary way” in which the U.S.-China relationship was being viewed was “false framework” that is “not helpful.”

“It’s driven by a demand to see every issue in term of conflict rather than resolution. And I think Australia and my government is going to be very positive in rejecting that dynamic.

“It is in no-one’s interest in the Indo-Pacific to see an inevitably more competitive US-China relationship become adversarial in character.

“What we’re interested in is having a peaceful and stable world, and I think when those sort of frameworks are imposed on you as a sensible, mature, reasonable nation, then you call them out, which is what I’ve just done,” he said.

Morrison added that his center-right government is “committed to further enhancing our relationship with China.”

He said that all countries have at least one thing in common. “They all want to be independent sovereign states, being who they are, finding their own way and being able to do that successfully in the future living happily with everyone else.

“That’s the basis of the partnership and coalition that Australia is happy to be part of and to seek to try foster,” he said.

While the outcome of the meetings at G-20 is hard to predict, another truce in the trade war would bring a huge short-term relief to global markets.

Trump has said that he will decide whether to impose new tariffs on at least $300 billion in Chinese goods after the summit.

“The president is quite comfortable with any outcome,” a senior administration official told reporters on June 25.

The objective of the president “is to rebalance the economic relationship in a way that protects U.S. economic prosperity and workers,” he said.

“The United States wants everyone to grow, and we believe that our economic model is one that nations around the world should follow,” the official said. “So we’ll be spending a significant amount of time talking about policies that work, including deregulation, tax reform, investment agendas, currency stability, innovation, and economic opportunities for all, including for women.”

During the dinner, Morrison was also expected to discuss with Trump his G-20 initiative for stronger global cooperation on stopping terrorists and violent extremists using social media platforms.

Morrison was accompanied by key cabinet members, including his finance minister, Mathias Cormann, and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham. Australia’s U.S. ambassador, Joe Hockey, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Martin Parkinson, senior Australian G-20 official David Gruen, and press chief Andrew Carswell were also reported to be present for the dinner.

Trump was accompanied by prominent members of the Trump administration including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, trade representative Robert Lighthizer, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, national security adviser John Bolton, White House adviser Peter Navarro, and assistant to the president Dan Scavino.

Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, senior adviser to the president Jared Kushner, were also in attendance.

The last time the two leaders met was last year at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.

Trump will next meet on a bilateral basis with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday morning, followed in succession by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

On Saturday, Trump will meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman before discussions with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and, finally, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

With reporting by Reuters and AAP. Epoch Times reporter Emel Akan contributed to this report.

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