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Australia's Turnbull urges free trade in face of Trump threat

Saturday, January 14, 2017 - 08:46

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Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has urged resistance to protectionism, reaffirming his commitment to the Trans Pacific-Partnership trade agreement, which is under threat from the incoming Trump administration.

[SYDNEY] Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has urged resistance to protectionism, reaffirming his commitment to the Trans Pacific-Partnership trade agreement, which is under threat from the incoming Trump administration.

Mr Turnbull made the comments ahead of a meeting in Sydney with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday aimed at strengthening economic and defense ties between the two countries.

"It is imperative we resist those voices urging us to close ourselves off from the world, because protectionism is a path to poverty," Mr Turnbull said in an article he wrote for the Australian newspaper.

The future of the TPP is in doubt after US President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to kill it off on the first day of his presidency.

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Mr Turnbull said there was scope for deeper and more sophisticated defense ties between Australia and Japan as security challenges in the region become more complex. He also stressed the importance of working closely with the new US administration.

"For both Australia and Japan, the US remains a cornerstone of our strategic and security arrangements," Mr Turnbull wrote.

Both countries could come under increasing pressure from the Trump government to act as a bulwark to China in the region.

Mr Abe arrived in Sydney from the Philippines and will head on to Indonesia and Vietnam in the coming days, in a tour aimed at bolstering trade and security cooperation amid mutual concerns about China's actions in the South China Sea and uncertainty over the policies of Trump's incoming administration.

Incoming US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Senate this week that he was in favour of blocking China's access to artificial islands it was building in the South China Sea, and that US allies in the region should provide backup in this task.

Former Australian prime minister Paul Keating said this week Mr Tillerson was threatening to involve Australia in a war with China, describing his comments as "simply ludicrous."

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