Tag Archives: Australia

Australia’s trade minister Simon Birmingham weighed in on the truce struck over the weekend between the U.S. and China. Birmingham says the Australian government will be watching “very closely” to make sure the truce doesn’t put the squeeze on Australian ag exports.

The Guardian Dot Com says presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping reached a “ceasefire” in a conflict that continues to threaten global economic growth. One of the things Trump mentioned first after the ceasefire was announced over the weekend was that China had agreed to buy a “tremendous amount of food and agricultural products from American farmers.”

The Australian trade minister was in Osaka, Japan, for the G-20 and said the deal between Washington and Beijing must be compliant with World Trade Organization rules, allowing Australian farmers to compete with other exporters on fair terms. Birmingham said taking a “long-term perspective,” he felt it was good news that Trump and Xi appeared to be toning down the trade hostilities between the two countries. “However, we’ll be keeping an eye on the detail and monitoring the situation closely,” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that the World Trade Organization needs mending to keep up with the times.

Morrison said many leaders attending the Group of 20 summit in Osaka later this month share the view.

“There is a strong consensus about the need to modernize the WTO and its rules,” he said.

“We need to mend it, we don’t need to break it, and mending it requires a lot of partnership,” he added. “Just now it’s the technical practical things that need to get done.”

Morrison, who spoke at a lunch organized by the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, didn’t go into the specifics of what needed to change.

But he referred to a “very practical” speech by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at an annual security conference last week.

Lee said multilateral institutions like the WTO were “far from perfect” and in need of reform.

“Multilateral global deals like the Uruguay Round are no longer practical, when agreement requires a full consensus among 164 member countries of hugely diverse interests and philosophies,” he said.

“Furthermore, the WTO was designed for an agricultural and manufacturing-based world economy, but the world has moved on to services and now increasingly digital and intellectual property, which need much more complicated rules,” Lee added.

Morrison is on his first overseas trip after a shock election victory in May. It includes stops at the Solomon Islands, Britain and Singapore.