Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rejected concerns over diplomatic tensions between Canberra and Beijing that have strained the relationship between the two countries, claiming that it is based on the honesty of their differences.
- Scott Morrison's meeting with the Chinese Premier has come amid allegations of interference in the Australian political system and criticism of Beijing's human rights
- Both incidents prompted Chinese officials to effectively say that they are silent in Australia
- Morrison stated that both countries are operating with "an honesty in understanding the differences between (their) prospects"
Morrison met Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang in Bangkok last night, ahead of today's East Asia Summit, describing the meeting as "candid".
Allegations of interference in the Australian political system and criticism of Beijing's human rights prompted violent speeches by Chinese officials, effectively telling Canberra to keep quiet.
But the Prime Minister has disputed the claims that these incidents have undermined wider economic ties.
"It's an honest recognition … that we are two very different countries," Morrison told reporters in Bangkok.
"We are a liberal democracy, I am a member of the Communist Party.
The Chinese Premier said that points of difference should not theoretically stop cooperation. (Reuters: Jason Lee)
"We are not trying to adopt their system and they are not trying to adopt ours, and therefore there is an honesty in understanding the differences between these two perspectives."
The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement last Sunday on the meeting between the couple, reiterating once again that it does not seek to interfere with "third party" affairs and that any relationship must be built on "mutual respect".
"There are always points of difference and the points of difference do not prevent you from proceeding in the areas of cooperation."
In the coming days, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham will lead a delegation of 200 Australian companies in Shanghai.
The regional trade agreement could proceed without India
In view of the meeting of Mr. Morrison with its Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, has raised concerns about the future of the Regional Global Economic Partnership (RCEP).
India had published a list of late requests for its entry into the 16-nation commercial pact, as Modi had to face internal pressures to protect its struggling economy.
Leaders will leave open the possibility that India will adhere to the agreement later, as they will probably announce an agreement for the other 15 nations on Monday night.
"It is important to appreciate the scale first. The degree of difficulty in landing a trade agreement of this scale depends on its size," said Senator Birmingham.
"We are talking about 32% of global GDP – 29% if you do not have India – it still shows that it is a huge deal.
"My understanding is, and I welcome the fact of all our dialogue from India, that India will continue discussions and negotiations and our door … is always open to India."
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