By Colin Packham
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia should reject “unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday, echoing a recent call by U.S. President Donald Trump for nations to embrace nationalism.
“We should avoid any reflex towards a negative globalism that coercively seeks to impose a mandate from an often ill-defined borderless global community,” Morrison said in a speech at the Lowy Institute think-tank.
“Under my leadership, Australia’s international engagement will be squarely driven by Australia’s national interests.”
Trump in September called on nations around the globe to embrace nationalism and reject globalism, saying wise leaders put their own people and countries first.
Morrison last month skipped the U.N. Climate Action Summit despite being in the United States to visit the Trump administration at the time.
While endorsing a key element of Trump’s foreign policy, Morrison insisted Australia did not have to choose between its closest historical ally, the United States, and its biggest trading partner, China.
China is a major consumer of Australian iron ore, coal and agricultural goods, buying more than one-third of the country’s total exports and sending more than a million tourists and students there each year.
But the Australian-Chinese bilateral relationship has been strained in recent years as Canberra grows increasingly concerned about Beijing’s activities in Australia and the Pacific.
Australian intelligence determined China was responsible for a cyber-attack on its parliament and three largest political parties before a general election in May, five people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
China denies responsibility for the attack.
Morrison has also angered China by joining the United States in calling for it to drop its “developing economy” status, which he reiterated on Thursday.
“We would expect China’s obligations to reflect its greater power status,” said Morrison.
“The rules and institutions that support global cooperation must reflect the modern world. It can’t be set and forget.”
Morrison’s backing of signature Trump policies comes days after he was drawn into controversy over a damaging report into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The New York Times reported that Trump asked Morrison in a phone call to assist U.S. Attorney General William Barr with a U.S. Justice Department probe into the origins of what became Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in 2016.
Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was triggered in part by former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer.
In 2016, Downer, then Australia’s top diplomat in Britain, was allegedly told by George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign aide, that Russia had damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Robert Birsel)