US-China trade war: Aussie PM warns against binary choices

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 yesterday.

He added 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 is not for us, I think, to judge or commentate on the merits; it is 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," said Mr Morrison at a business lunch hosted by the Australian Chamber of Commerce Singapore at The St Regis Singapore hotel.

"It is 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 Simon Birmingham.

"We can only encourage them to work through these issues and reach a resolution."

Mr Morrison said countries need to focus on developing technologies, forming partnerships, signing trade agreements and creating jobs to ensure that whenever the trade war is 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," he said.

 
 
 

He cited the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership pact among 11 countries, which was formalised despite the US 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 Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the latter underlined the need to boost 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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2019, with the headline 'US-China trade war: Aussie PM warns against binary choices'. Print Edition | Subscribe