Sky News Interview: First Edition: China-US Relationship, Climate Change



SUBJECTS: China and US Relationship, Climate Change,  

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Good morning to you Peter. I tell you what, the transatlantic turmoil that’s taking place at the moment. One leader is facing the sack. One leader is facing impeachment. What do you make of it all?  

PETER KHALIL, MP: G’day, good morning Pete. Yeah it’s a quite volatile day in politics, or week in politics, year in politics really. What I make of it all, you know I’ve been focusing on watching obviously our Prime Ministers visit, over there in the US, and I thought he had one job Pete, one job to do. And that was to try and convince President Trump to resolve the trade war with China. Because that is fundamentally in our national interest. As a trading country we needed to see a strong rule based order around multilateral trade, and he’s taken a different tact. Which is very interesting.  

STEFANOVICOkay well do you agree with Anthony Albanese’s comments that China is very clearly a developing nation? 

KHALILWell the WTO defines China as a developing nation, and what Scott Morrison has done is take it upon himself to pre-empt what I think is necessary changes to the WTO definition, and that is a process that we should all be undertaking as part of a negotiation. But Scott Morrison is kind of tag teaming with Trump now to try and redefine China’s economic status ahead of any of these types of negotiations through the WTO.  

STEFANOVICBut don’t you think it needs to be redefined, because you know it is the second largest economy in the world, it’s the largest manufacturing country in the world. So do you think those rules need to be adjusted? 

KHALILSure Peter. But as I said, it’s got to be part of a very thorough negotiation with the WTO. To reform the WTO, to modernise it, to address the realities that we’re facing now. But the point I’m making is that Scott Morrison’s kind of, you know, run ahead of it and tried to actually pre-empt this negotiation by unilaterally – and well, tag teaming with President Trump – saying this is the new definition. Here’s what we’re proclaiming without any negotiation. Now again, he’s chosen to do that rather than actually focus on what is in Australia’s national interest, which is to get President Trump to resolve the trade war with China. That’s in our interests. As a trading nation, Pete you know that, you know, multilateral trade, rules based order around trade is fundamentally important for Australia and our prosperity, our security and so on. And he hasn’t focused on that so much, as to try and actually work in tandem with President Trump on trying to redefine China’s status.  

STEFANOVICSince China joined the WTO in 2001, Donald Trump referred to this stat this morning, he said that 60 thousand factories in the US have shut down. They’ve gone. And he went on to accuse, as you know, China of gaming the system this morning. Do you not think that China is using the system to its advantage?  

KHALILWell the globalised, transnational nature of trade that we’ve seen through that period of globalisation, China has taken every advantage it can – obviously. So there are issues, as I’ve said, there needs to be reform of the WTO, there needs to be a process where we modernise those rules, the rules based order. But it should be done as part of a process. My criticism of the Prime Minister is that he has tried to do that somewhat unilaterally by trying to make definitions on the run, rather than through the WTO process if you like. The globalised trading system is such that we’ve seen a lot of offshoring occur where corporations have gone to seek, to set up if you like, in countries with lower wages, easier conditions. Profits have skyrocketed during that period. But there’s a whole range of issues that have impacted, particularly the middle class, and the working class in Western countries as a result of globalisation over the past 20, 30 years.  

STEFANOVICDo you think Scott Morrison has chosen sides? 

KHALILWell I don’t agree with this, the one thing I would agree with Scott Morrison, is I don’t agree with this binary, or this false dichotomy that we’ve got to choose between China and the US. In fact I think Australia has to, in all its sophistication and it should be sophisticated, be able to balance both relationships to enhance our national interest. We should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time Pete. We should be able to enhance our relationship with the US and with China, they’re not mutually exclusive. It can be done if we’re smart, if we’re nimble, if we’re agile. I just don’t think Scott Morrison is doing a very good job of it, frankly. He says that he is, but he’s not. He should have been focusing on resolving the trade war and using whatever influence he has, which seems to be quite a bit, from all the hoopla that I’ve seen in the US with President Trump, to try resolve that issue for our national interest. That’s what should be the focus of an Australian Prime Minister on a visit of such import. 

STEFANOVICI just want to, before we go Peter Khalil, I just want to get your thoughts on climate change. It is a very serious issue, and Scott Morrison referred to that, and he’s going to be talking about that at the UN tomorrow. Is it your view though that we need to be careful about the young people who are protesting at the moment, you know, some are kids as young as nine. I mean, you would be aware of that report that came out recently that says a lot of kids are suffering from anxiety over climate change. Do we need to be careful about that, because there’s a lot of information for young kids to take in, and if they’re forming an argument that might not be all that accurate.  

KHALILI don’t know if you’re aware Pete, I’ve got two kids, 4 and 6 years old, and it’s always a balancing act about how much you expose them to, how much risk you, calculated risk if you like, you expose them to. So that they can learn about the world, and about how to actually handle issues for themselves, problems for themselves, solve them and have resilience. So yes it is a delicate issue, I think the young generation have been protesting. Let’s not underestimate the fact that they understand that this is about their future. Young kids are perceptive in that respect, you know, depending on the age group if its age appropriate, but there is a real sense of understanding about this, that this is about their future. And yes, Greta Thunberg’s statements were very powerful, and very serious if you like, and there is a movement there of young people who understand that this is about the future of the planet. And there’s nothing wrong with that, and I think that they need to be encouraged to express their views around that. I don’t know how appropriate it is for really young children to feel that kind of anxiety about the future. I think it’s up to parents to make sure that they assess when its age appropriate for them to explain the problems of the world to their children.  

KHALILYeah fair enough, okay Peter Khalil, Labor MP, great to get your thoughts this morning, appreciate your time.