If one thing’s certain about the G7 summit, it’s that Prime Minister Scott Morrison won’t be publicly throwing China under the bus, a political commentator says.
It will be the first time Australia has been invited to the global gathering, and it comes amid rising tensions between the US and China, fuelled by fiery lines from President Donald Trump.
“Nobody wins from the sort of conflict we’re seeing between the Chinese and the Americans,” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers told reporters in Brisbane.
Senior politics lecturer at Griffith University Paul Williams said he believes Mr Morrison will not criticise China on the same level as that of Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie, who recently called out the country’s growing presence in the South Pacific by comparing its rise to that of Nazi Germany.
However, Mr Williams conceded, the meeting will not be without its difficulties.
“It must be hell being in international relations at the moment trying to walk that fine line between trying to stand up to China but trying to still be China’s friend,” Dr Williams told The New Daily.
He tipped Mr Morrison will be using his observer status to point out to global economic powers that Australia’s “been a good friend of liberal democracy too, so don’t forget us”.
“Scott Morrison will be the first to say, and the Coalition will be the first to say, that China has been a very good friend to Australia for the past nearly 50 years and certainly they don’t want to do anything to offend it,” Dr Williams said.
“But friends shouldn’t be taken advantage of – I think that would be the Morrison response.”
Mr Morrison is likely to express “very strong concern about the world falling behind tariff walls again” to global powers in “one-on-one behind the scenes” conversations, Dr Williams said.
Australia’s chance to create change
The G7 leaders’ meeting, where Mr Morrison is a special invited guest, is an “opportunity for Australia to influence the agenda of world leaders”, he added.
Increasing global headwinds, threats to security and sharpening trade tensions will shape talks.
“All of these developments have implications for our national interests,” the Prime Minister said in a statement on Saturday, as he ended his official visit to Vietnam before heading to France.
“This forum will be an important opportunity to listen and to put forward Australia’s views on these global challenges.”
Mr Morrison will take part in two special sessions of the forum on Monday but will seize the opportunity of being in the same place as the leaders of these countries and other special invitees to hold several one-on-one talks.
In particular, he plans to use meetings with European leaders to highlight the importance of a commercially meaningful Australia-European Union free trade agreement.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham recently released a list of names of 172 foods and 236 spirits the European Union wants protected under a trade deal, including the cheeses feta, gruyere and gorgonzola, and grappa and ouzo.
Mr Morrison will also discuss a planned post-Brexit trade agreement with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
He is also expected to hold bilateral talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
One topic added to the G7 agenda at the last minute is the wildfires raging in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, with Mr Macron describing it as an “international crisis” and the US Trump administration expressing its deep concern.
Mr Morrison will take the opportunity while in Biarritz to work with leaders and industry representatives who share his commitment to tackling terrorist and extremist exploitation of the internet.
“I am keen to build on the progress made on this issue at the recent G20 meeting in Osaka – progress driven by Australia on the world stage,” he said.