US-China trade war does not represent 'binary choice' for rest of world: Australian PM Scott Morrison

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at a business lunch hosted by the Australian Chamber of Commerce Singapore on June 7, 2019.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at a business lunch hosted by the Australian Chamber of Commerce Singapore on June 7, 2019.PHOTO: EPA - EFE

SINGAPORE - The trade war between the United States and China does not represent a "binary choice" for the rest of the world, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday (June 7), asserting that it was in the interest of the global economy for countries not directly involved to maintain the momentum in other areas without being distracted by the clash of the two giants.

"It's not for us I think to judge or commentate on the merits, it's just our job to encourage in the interest of global prosperity for these things to be resolved. And then, we get on with the things that we can do," Mr Morrison said at a business lunch hosted by the Australian Chamber of Commerce Singapore.

"It's in all of our interests for that (the trade war) to be resolved... We best help that, I think, by not getting drawn into the binary assignment that people try to make of everyone else who is not directly involved," he told the audience, which included Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and his Australian counterpart, Mr Simon Birmingham. "We can only encourage them to work through these issues and reach a resolution."

Mr Morrison said countries needed to focus on developing technologies, forming partnerships, signing trade agreements and creating jobs to ensure that whenever the trade war was resolved, things would already be better.

"I think - ensuring we maintain the momentum of all the other work that is taking place while this issue is hopefully being resolved - that we shouldn't become so distracted because there is very little at the end of the day that most can do. It is a matter between the United States and China and they both have many issues that they are raising," said the Australian Prime Minister.

He cited the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact among 11 countries, which was formalised despite the United States pulling out, as an example of how countries not party to the US-China dispute could work together.

Mr Morrison, who was in Singapore as one of the stops on his first overseas trip since winning an election last month, said that during his discussions with Mr Lee Hsien Loong, the Singapore Prime Minister underlined the need to strengthen the multilateral system rather than demolish the established playing field.

"Prime Minister Lee said, and I completely agree, that we need to strengthen multilateral institutions - raise, not cripple them or block them. He also said the bottom line is that the US and China need to work together and with other countries as well, to bring the global system up to date and to not upend the system," he said.