Despite the concessions given to Russia and China, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called the latest G20 declaration the “strongest statement” to date.
The leaders’ declaration released on Day 1 of the G20 summit in New Delhi, did not directly condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine, instead urging against the use of force “to seek territorial acquisition,” while also adding in the statement that there were “different views and assessments of the situation.”
Despite the slight change in language, Mr. Albanese said world leaders had delivered an “extraordinarily” strong statement, denying that it had been watered down.
“A backdrop of this G20 has been the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the impact it’s having on the global economy, on food security, as well as obviously the devastating impact of this war on the people of Ukraine.
“Speaker after speaker reiterated the need for Russia to stop this war which it can do today, and the need to make sure that action was clearly heard.”
Mr. Albanese said the fact that the Russian representative had agreed to the declaration was an indication that Russia understood the message.
“Russia has to have gotten the message, that this is having a devastating impact, and that the world wants this war to stop,” he said.
EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement
Mr. Albanese also spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the G20 summit, discussing what steps would need to be taken to successfully close an Australia-EU free trade agreement (FTA).
Australia and the EU have been locked in negotiations over an FTA, after they broke down in July over the Australian side pushing for more access to the European market.
Europe wants Australia to scrap the luxury car tax and tighten rules around labelling with European geographical indications, such as feta and parmesan, in return for greater market access for Australian agricultural products. Details around the potential tightened rules for geographical indicators are currently unclear.
The prime minister noted that a deal is much more likely to occur this year than next year, where it would likely be shelved for another significant period of time as the EU gears up for its 2024 election.
But he also reiterated that Australia would not sign up to an agreement for the sake of having an agreement.
“I would like to see the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement settled as soon as possible,” Mr. Albanese said.
“But Australia will only sign off, as myself and Don Farrell, the minister for trade, has said, if it is in Australia’s national interest.
“What was on the table previously, it didn’t fulfil that criteria in the [Australian] government’s view.”
Mr. Albanese said it was in the interests of both Australia and the EU to finalise the agreement because trade is good for both parties.
“That is in Australia’s national interest and in the interests of the European Union. It’s a major market. We are major democracies,” he said.
“Democracies need to trade and engage with each other. One of the ways that we strengthen our respective systems is to have strong economic relations.”
Previously in June, Mr. Farrell warned that Australia would walk away from a deal if necessary.
Mr. Albanese also held formal talks with Quad partners Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On his meeting with Mr. Kishida, Mr. Albanese said they discussed security, economic, energy, and climate priorities that the two countries are advancing together.
“And our support for our neighbours will promote sustainable development in the Pacific.”
PM Stands by International Appearances
Back at home, the prime minister faced some criticism for being out of the country for a whole week in the lead-up to the referendum vote for an Indigenous Voice in the Constitution on Oct. 14.
But Mr. Albanese said he made no apologies for keeping Australia engaged and represented on the international stage.
“This is a G20 meeting of the world’s 20 leading economies. Australia needs to be represented