With Anthony Albanese invited to attend the summit – and thus able to hastily convene a meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with the America’s Joe Biden, Japan’s Fumio Kishida, and India’s Narrenda Modi on the sidelines on Saturday night – the G7 also reiterated its commitment to working with South-East Asian and Pacific island nations to back up the Quad’s efforts to counter Beijing’s influence and maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
Third, the G7 has made clear how central Australia is to global democracies rising to meet the authoritarian challenge by strongly condemning China’s economic coercion, such as the trade sanctions that continue to target some Australian exports.
The G7’s commitment to increasing “economic resilience and economic security” seeks to diversify and secure critical supply chains with reliable partners, and protect against malicious practices such as China’s industrial espionage and digital data theft, including through export controls on critical and emerging military technologies.
Importantly, however, the G7’s talk of “de-risking, not de-coupling” from China suggests a proportionate step back from globalisation in a different security context – not a full-blown retreat to protectionism, which would only harm global prosperity.
The G7 is signalling the democratic world’s openness to China’s continued peaceful participation in the global economy, subject to China abiding by the World Trade Organisation’s rule book for a free, fair and transparent global trading system, which the G7 says is “more important than ever in the current geopolitical environment”.
The G7’s position is consistent with Australia’s overarching foreign policy goal of helping manage the relationship with our major trade partner behind the global rules. However, a year on from the Albanese government’s welcome resumption of ministerial dialogue with China, the talking is yet to produce much by way of a trade penalty-lifting result.
Last Thursday’s surprise ending of China’s ban on Australian timber was a geopolitical trolling of the US, following President Biden’s cancellation of his Sydney Quad visit. After Trade Minister Don Farrell came back empty-handed from this month’s visit to Beijing, the prime minister now plans to travel to China later this year to further help stabilise the relationship.
Former Coalition trade minister Senator Simon Birmingham says the government must not make any concessions – such as supporting China’s application to join the Trans-Pacific – in return for the lifting of the sanctions that break the trade global rules, and that Mr Albanese should instead demand clarity around their unconditional lifting before entertaining a formal visit.
That call appears to make strategic sense against the global backdrop of the G7’s condemnation of economic coercion. While maintaining dialogue and engagement, Australia needs to continue to resist economic coercion and avoid any impression of having surrendered to China’s trade punishment.