Prime Minister Scott Morrison is urging the United States and China to respect international law and resolve their disputes peacefully as tensions between the two great powers continue to escalate.
- Scott Morrison will speak at the Aspen Security Forum this week
- In his speech, Mr Morrison will urge the US and China to resolve their issues peacefully
- He will also revisit the controversy he roused last year when he warned against “negative globalism”
Beijing and Washington are enmeshed in an increasingly poisonous series of disputes over trade, espionage and the Chinese Government’s military build-up in the South China Sea.
The Federal Government is worried about China’s increasing belligerence towards Australia and has been steadily strengthening defence ties with the United States.
But it has also been unnerved by the Trump administration’s withdrawal from a host of international organisations and frustrated by the way it has used America’s economic heft to bully other nations in trade disputes.
In a keynote address to the Aspen Security Forum, Scott Morrison will say both the US and China have a “special responsibility” to uphold rapidly fraying international rules.
“The liberal rules and norms of the American Century are under assault. ‘The jungle is growing back’, as Robert Kagan has observed,” the Prime Minister’s speech says.
“We need to tend to the gardening.
“That means respecting international law and the peaceful resolution of disputes. It means a commitment to rules-based economic interaction. Neither coercion nor abdication from international systems is the way forward.”
Mr Morrison will also use the speech to take a veiled swipe at the Trump administration’s mercantilism.
The US President Donald Trump has railed against free trade agreements and has hit multiple US allies and partners with tariffs as he tries to rebuild America’s industrial base.
Australia has escaped largely unscathed, winning an exemption from US steel and aluminium tariffs in 2018.
But last year, the Federal Government had to fight a rear-guard action to preserve the exemption after senior US officials tried to kill it.
In the speech, the Prime Minister warns that “the sense of unity necessary among like-minded partners can be undermined if positive political and security relationships are accompanied by abrasive or confrontational trade relationships”.
“We should avoid cases where we build closer strategic co-operation, only to see the cohesiveness of those relationships undermined by trade disputes,” he says.
And he will emphasise Australia’s push to balance China by deepening defence and economic links with other major powers in Asia, including Indonesia, Japan and India.
“A critical priority is to build a durable strategic balance in the Indo-Pacific. For more like-minded nations to act more cohesively, more consistently, more often,” the speech reads.
Mr Morrison will also revisit the controversy he roused last year when he warned against “negative globalism” in international bodies such as the United Nations.
Labor accused Mr Morrison of demonising the United Nations, and in June the Foreign Minister Marise Payne used a major speech to emphasise that Australia would not abandon multilateral institutions.
The Prime Minister will repeat some of his criticisms of UN bodies at the Aspen Security Forum.
“When global institutions and their bureaucracies become unaccountable, when they become vulnerable to manipulation, when they lose the confidence of their membership, they fail in their task,” Mr Morrison will say.
“In my Lowy Institute speech nearly a year ago, I described that trend as negative globalism. My view hasn’t changed.”
But the Prime Minister will also emphasise that Australia would continue to press its case within international institutions rather than stepping back from them.
“As I said then and repeat now, we believe in a positive globalism: where nations like Australia engage directly with others, as equals, in the pursuit of common objectives,” the speech says.