Australia PM focuses G-20 presidency on free trade

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, Jan 23, 2014. The prime minister of Australia, the current holder of the rotating G20 presidency, said on Thursday he would seek to bolster free trade
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, Jan 23, 2014. The prime minister of Australia, the current holder of the rotating G20 presidency, said on Thursday he would seek to bolster free trade during his country's turn at the helm. -- PHOTO: AFP

DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) - The prime minister of Australia, the current holder of the rotating G20 presidency, said on Thursday he would seek to bolster free trade during his country's turn at the helm.

"As always, trade comes first," Mr Tony Abbott told an audience of world leaders and business chiefs at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"At the very least, the G20 should renew its commitment against protectionism and in favour of freer markets," Mr Abbott urged.

Any protectionist measures put in place since the global economic downturn must be unwound, added the prime minister.

"As a trading nation, Australia will make the most of its G20 presidency to promote free trade," pledged Mr Abbott.

Without mentioning the World Trade Organisation or the failing Doha Round of talks that was supposed to tear down trade barriers, Mr Abbott called for "unilateral, bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral" action to boost trade.

This appeared to be a slight shift of emphasis from the most recent G20 statement issued in Saint Petersburg which urged countries to focus on striking a WTO trade deal.