Prime Minister Scott Morrison reaffirmed Australia’s close friendship with the United States on his state visit hosted by President Donald Trump.
Washington: Prime Minister Scott Morrison and US President Donald Trump will announce a plan to counter China’s dominance of the supply of prized rare earth materials during Mr Morrison’s state visit to Washington DC.
The “action plan” will open a new front against China in a widening technology and trade war by exploiting Australian reserves of the rare earths and other materials that are essential for products ranging from iPhones to batteries and hybrid cars.
Mr Morrison arrived in Washington with a message for Mr Trump positioning Australia as an ideal friend that would back its longstanding ally on Israel, Iran and wider defence policy.
“We have never left it to the United States. Ours is not the journey of a free rider on the sacrifice of our friends,” Mr Morrison will say.
Playing on Mr Trump’s frustration with allies who do not spend enough on defence, Mr Morrison will use an address to the US State Department to remind American leaders that Australia will lift its defence spending to 2 per cent of economic output.
Mr Morrison will applaud the US as an example for other economies, hinting that it has shown the way for others including China.
“The new economies of the world, lifting hundreds of millions from poverty, do so because they saw the United States define a century and do it first, and then invited and supported them to follow,” Mr Morrison says in his prepared remarks for his welcome to the White House.
Mr Morrison wants Mr Trump and his colleagues to see Australia as their strongest military ally over the past century. Mr Trump’s officials believe the joint plan will improve the security of supply of materials in critical shortage.
China’s control of the market has triggered growing alarm on both sides of politics in Washington at the idea that China might halt supplies of essential materials such as lithium.
“We’re going to be rolling out a plan to improve security and supply of rare earth in a way that is mutually beneficial to both countries and strengthens . . .
our physical security and our economic security,” a Trump administration official said in a briefing on Thursday.
US officials also praised Australia as a “tremendous partner” in opposing Iran’s nuclear program and interference in shipping, while Mr Morrison made it clear he backed the US in its support for Israel – a totemic issue for Mr Trump. “Under my government we have taken an even stronger stand against the biased and unfair targeting of Israel in the UN General Assembly,” Mr Morrison says in the draft of his speech to the State Department.
“Australia may not be America’s most powerful friend, but we are certainly your most sure and steadfast.”
This is the first state visit by an Australian Prime Minister since George W.
Bush hosted John Howard in 2006. Mr Morrison will emphasise the need to reduce trade barriers at a time when Mr Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping are lifting tariffs. He will also highlight Australia’s success with free trade and the fact that the US has the advantage in the bilateral relationship. “The current US trade surplus with Australia is greater than the combined US surpluses with all other G20 nations,” he says in the State Department speech. “All US exports enter Australia tariff free and quota free. You can’t get a better deal than that. We are the gold standard of US trade partners.”
Mr Morrison and his wife Jenny will present Mr Trump with a bronze statue of Leslie “Bull” Allen, an Australian infantry stretcher bearer from Ballarat who carried out 12 American casualties who came under fire in Papua New Guinea in 1943. They will also present the President and First Lady Melania Trump with a Socceroos jersey for their son Barron.
m A lavish state dinner last night at the White House Rose Garden – just the second to be held since Mr Trump’s inauguration – was overseen by Mrs Trump, who had “carefully selected” all the details to represent the close ties between the US and Australia, including a green-and-gold floral design featuring wattle and more than 2500 California roses. Guests included golfer Greg Norman, businesswoman Gina Rinehart and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
Mr Morrison will next travel to Chicago to meet the governor, then Ohio to visit a recycling plant owned by Richard Pratt and on to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
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