CNN: Kevin Rudd on Coronavirus, Climate and China ahead of the G7 summit.

INTERVIEW VIDEO
TV INTERVIEW
CNN
10 JUNE 2021

Becky Anderson
Let’s bring in Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia he is now the president of the Asia Society Policy Institute and has recently spoken out about China and Kevin Rudd joins us now live from Brisbane, Australia. Mr. Rudd, thank you very much for joining us. Let’s start off if I could, with the discussion that’s being centered here, the G7 the three C’s, that’s Coronavirus, climate, as well as China. If I can start with China, Scott Morrison, we’ve had Prime Minister had some very big rhetoric, I think it’s fair to say against China. What do you think he wants to hear from the G7, on the question of China?

Kevin Rudd
Well the Australia bilateral relationship with China has gone through a very difficult period over the last year or so. And you’ve seen a lot of rhetoric from the Australian Prime Minister. You’ve also seen a lot of, shall we say, retaliatory positions taken by the Chinese government against Australia? I think the key question for the G7 is where they wish to land in terms of their collective position in establishing a new modus vivendi with the Chinese government that the President Xi Jingping. There of course the outstanding questions will be the future stability in the Taiwan straits, you have standing question will be those of human rights. And the outstanding question will be working with China at the same time on climate change.

Becky Anderson
Yeah, and as you well know, Mr. Rudd Europe is not as hawkish against China, for economic reasons, let’s say. So do you think the Mr. Morrison’s message will resonate with the rest of the leaders here at the G7?

Kevin Rudd
I’m not sure whether Mr. Morrison’s message will resonate or not. I think President Biden’s approach to the G7 meeting will be to achieve as much of a common position in terms of the G7’s relationship with the future of China on both human rights questions on security questions, but also critically on climate questions as well. Remember, within this overall frame, that both prime minister Johnson and President Biden will be working towards a large outcome at the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow at the end of this year, I think achieving a solid G7 outcome on climate, therefore, including leveraging China to do more will be critical in terms of the overall outcome of the summit.

Becky Anderson
Oh, I’ve heard Mr. Morrison call for a way to blunt China’s economic coercion. And one way he thinks that you can counter Chinese competition is to reform the WTO, the World Trade Organization, how likely do you think is this to happen? How likely you think others will follow suit?

Kevin Rudd
I think the difficulty with WTO reform processes for those of us familiar with it is that they take forever, frankly, because they’re all achieved on the basis of sense. The bottom line in terms of questions of economic coercion, it’s trying to achieve a between Australia and China are more evenly balanced relationship into the future. That is difficult. But at the same time, when any individual statement encounters, shall we say bilateral economic coercion from China, it’s important that there be a collective position in response to that. I think that is the way through here. And it will be interesting to see what the G7 summit leaders arrive at by way of consensus on that. If you look at the draft, as it were, indicate language being floated, it’s quite unusual and it’s forward leaning nature on China. It would be the first time for example, a summit communicate the G7 dealt explicitly, with the Taiwan straits dealt explicitly with questions and Xinjiang. So I think therefore, there is a sharpening in the G7 position. At the same time, as you rightly pointed out, the Europeans have a different perspective on China, both on trade investment relations, but critically also all united and wanting to work with China on climate. This is a complex challenge.

Becky Anderson
Yeah, it’s more about those shared values, isn’t it? Let’s talk if I may, Mr. Rudd, about COVID. Australia has been I think it’s fair to say praised for its ability to largely stamp out the virus. It has very strict border controls, which even limits citizens from returning . Borders, from what I understand are not expected to open anytime soon. And vaccination rates are very low. Meanwhile, Australia’s emergency response to the virus is becoming some would say unsustainable. And no roadmap so far has been presented to reopening. So what do you think is or should be Australia’s COVID exit strategy here?

Kevin Rudd
Well, within the a G7 context from which you’re speaking, of course, there’s a broader obligation in terms of The COVID crisis, which was to agree on a package of measures for vaccination policy towards the developing world. But let’s step away from that to your specific question on Australia, I think it’s going to take some time for Australia to, as it were, reopen its borders, in large part because the medical authorities in Australia, the chief medical officers of the federal and state governments have been fairly uniform in their advice in terms of keeping international borders highly restricted in the current period. You’re right to point out the slow pace of vaccination within this country, which has been quite slow against OECD standards, means that it does slow the pace as well in terms of border reopening. So therefore, I think when Prime Minister Morrison says we’re not looking towards the border reopening until into 2022, he’s probably speaking the truth there. It could however be brought forward if the vaccination rate here was rapidly increased. And there I think the government in Australia has been lacking.

Becky Anderson
Let’s, let’s talk climate change, if we may. What we have heard, what we’ve been hearing from leaders is a commitment to net zero by 2050. That’s all we hear, net zero by 2050. Mr. Morrison has, however, being somewhat resistant to set more ambitious climate commitments. Do you think he’ll be swayed by other leaders here at the G7 Mr. Rudd?

Kevin Rudd
Well, prior to leaving Australia, Mr. Morrison has been very clear that he does not intend to be swayed either by President Biden or by others. But I think Prime Minister Morrison may well get mugged by reality here, by which I mean, the European Union is moving towards a border carbon tax, for want of a better term. That is force nations who are not doing enough to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions over time, either in terms of their mid century commitment on carbon neutrality, or what’s called the near term indifference to reduce over the 2020s through until 2030. That a border adjustment tax or a border carbon tax would be imposed. Mr. Morrison is going to have to address that reality A. from the Europeans and potentially from the Americans as well. And therefore he would have to explain to the Australian community that by being recalcitrant on climate change, ambition himself, he is willing to wear the economic penalties which flow from the rest of the world. I think that’ll be a hard message for him to sell to these communities.

Becky Anderson
Yeah, I suspect so too. Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister of Australia, I appreciate you taking the time to speak to us, sir.