Scott Morrison will stress the importance of helping nations in Australia’s region to build projects that don’t create crippling debt burdens amid the continued rise of China.

The prime minister will on Wednesday deliver a major foreign policy speech ahead of a trip to the United Kingdom, where he will be a guest at a meeting of world economic powers.

G7 leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States are attending the global conference later in the week.

Morrison will tell Perth’s USAsia Centre that regional infrastructure that comes with onerous conditions or is too expensive isn’t worth having.

“Projects should be high quality – and affordable,” he is expected to say.

“They should meet real need, and deliver sustainable economic benefits. And they should not compromise countries’ resilience or sovereignty.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Regional infrastructure projects “should be high quality – and affordable”, Scott Morrison says. Credit: AAP

He believes G7 countries and Australia should play a crucial role in providing alternative sources of finance for poorer nations.

“Absent this safety net and transparency, our neighbours face obstacles to open economic development and can become vulnerable to debt diplomacy.”

China critics accuse the superpower of trapping developing nations in infrastructure project loans that tip the power balance against them.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is pushing for world leaders to rein in China as he prepares for a trip to the UK this week.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is pushing for world leaders to rein in China as he prepares for a trip to the UK this week. Credit: Getty

The risks

Morrison will also warn the international rules-based order is under threat with the world in a similar state of flux as it was in the aftermath of World War II.

“The risks of miscalculation and conflict are growing. And the technological edge enjoyed historically by Australia and our allies is under challenge,” he will say.

After Australia launched trade umpire action against China over barley tariffs, the prime minister will pledge support for fixing the World Trade Organisation’s dispute process.

“The most practical way to address economic coercion is the restoration of the global trading body’s binding dispute settlement system,” Morrison will say.

US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden. Credit: EPA

“Where there are no consequences for coercive behaviour, there is little incentive for restraint.”

Australia is also backing US President Joe Biden’s push to bolster and accelerate efforts to identify the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Morrison government’s strong support for an inquiry into the disease angered Beijing and further damaged strained relations.

“Having led calls for an independent inquiry, it remains Australia’s firm view that understanding the cause of this pandemic is essential for preventing the next one, for the benefit of all people,” Morrison will say.

Morrison will on Thursday travel to the G7 via Singapore where he is due to discuss military cooperation, regional security and coronavirus with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Both countries are keen on a regional travel bubble, but it is understood an announcement is still some way off.

At the G7, Morrison is set to hold meetings with Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in.

During the trip, Morrison is also expected to hold talks with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson with free trade negotiations in focus.

PM makes policy pitch ahead of G7 meeting
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