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Australia's finance minister calls for an 'ongoing commitment to free trade'

Key Points
  • Australia's finance minister expresses a desire to see a commitment to free trade ahead of a highly anticipated meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
  • Seen by some to be caught in the middle of the trade fight between the two economic powerhouses, Australia has important relationships with both the U.S. and China.
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Keen to see 'negotiated resolution' to trade war: Australian minister

All eyes are on the ongoing G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan that kicked off Friday and is set to last till Saturday, with U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese Xi Jinping scheduled to meet amid the ongoing trade fight between their two countries.

Ahead of that meeting, Australia's finance minister is calling for a commitment to free trade.

"We've made it very clear that from our point of view, we are very keen to see an ongoing commitment to free trade and open engagement and indeed, for any issues to be resolved through a negotiated outcome," Mathias Cormann, Australian finance minister, told CNBC's Nancy Hungerford at the G-20 summit on Friday.

"Australia's an open trading economy, what happens in the world economy does matter to us but it matters to a lot of other countries too," Cormann said. "We would argue that an ongoing and protracted trade war is not in anybody's interest."

We would argue that an ongoing and protracted trade war is not in anybody's interest.
Mathias Cormann
Australian finance minister

Instead, Cormann said Australia is "very keen" to see a negotiated resolution reached within the framework set out by the World Trade Organization that "doesn't impose any unfair consequences on other parties."

"We want to maintain good, positive strong relationships, economic relationships with both the U.S. and China and I think that most countries around the world would be the same," he said.

Seen by some as caught in the middle of the trade fight between the two economic powerhouses, Australia has important relationships with both the U.S. and China. The country is part of an intelligence alliance called Five Eyes with the U.S. along with New Zealand, Canada and the U.K., while China is its largest two-way trading partner.

In August 2018, Australia banned Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE from selling 5G technology equipment Down Under, citing national security concerns

Commenting on the drama surrounding the next generation 5G wireless standard and Huawei, Cormann said: "We made decisions based on our assessment of our national interests as we respect that other friends and allies and other countries around the world will make their decisions based on their considerations."

Looking ahead, the Australian finance minister acknowledged the presence of global economic headwinds.

"We need to ensure that all of our policy settings are right to make us as competitive as possible internationally so we can be as resilient as possible to deal with headwinds but also to take advantage of opportunities in our neighborhood," Cormann said.

"In the end, across the Asia Pacific is where most of the global economic growth will be generated over the next few decades," he added. "Australia wants to be in the best possible position to seize those opportunities."