Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrives for APEC CEO Summit 2018 in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Picture: AP
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrives for APEC CEO Summit 2018 in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Picture: AP

Morrison to China: ‘back off’

Scott Morrison says Pacific nations should not be loaded up with "unsustainable" debt, in a shot at China's growing influence.

The prime minister this morning addressed the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Port Moresby, immediately before Chinese President Xi Jinping and United States Vice President Mike Pence.

He said developed nations must work in partnership with Pacific countries, rather than put huge debt obligations on them.

His comments come against the backdrop of a growing trade war between China and the United States, and attempts by Beijing to cement new influence throughout the South Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Trade wars benefit no one and must be solved by negotiation rather than tit-for-tat tariffs, the Prime Minister said.

 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends the APEC CEO Summit 2018 today. Picture: AP
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends the APEC CEO Summit 2018 today. Picture: AP

 

The world is facing a "rising tide of trade protectionism" and financial market volatility, Scott Morrison warned during his speech to business leaders ahead of the two-day summit of Asia-Pacific leaders.

"The solution is not throwing up protectionist barriers," he said. "Tit-for-tat protectionism and threats of trade wars are in no one's interest economically and undermine the authority of the global and regional trade rules that benefit us all." APEC members the US and China have become embroiled in a trade war which experts warn could be catastrophic for the global economy, with the world's top two powers going head to head.

The pair have imposed tariffs worth billions of dollars of each other's goods and there is little sign of an immediate easing in tensions, with both sides threatening to step up action if necessary.

"The solution to perceived unfair trade practices is more likely to be found around a negotiation table than it is in building a tariff war," urged Morrison.

Australia would "continue to advocate for trade disputes to be resolved by negotiation and within WTO rules." He acknowledged that the World Trade Organisation "was not perfect" and pledged to work with "like-minded countries to improve it." Reform of the WTO is a topic that is likely to sow division at the summit. Foreign ministers meeting ahead of the talks were unable to publish a joint statement, apparently due to difference over language on WTO reform



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