In a rallying cry to democratic allies and a thinly veiled message to China, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is heading to the G7-plus summit in the United Kingdom urging the bolstering of a "world order that favours freedom" and saying Australia will not stand for economic coercion.
In a scene-setting speech in Perth on Wednesday ahead of his departure overseas, Mr Morrison is expected to test China again by reissuing - as a backing of similar moves by United States President Joe Biden - his call to identify the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. He is also set to urge a "renovation" of the rules of the World Trade Organization, to buttress its role and counter economic coercion.
"Our challenge is nothing less than to reinforce, renovate and buttress a world order that favours freedom," Mr Morrison is expected to tell the Perth USAsia Centre.
"Meeting this challenge will require a degree of active co-operation among like-minded countries and liberal democracies not seen for 30 years.
"The COVID-19 crisis merely underlines the urgent need to deepen and accelerate our shared endeavours."
It was the PM's call in April 2020 for an independent investigation with weapons inspector-type powers into the origins of COVID-19 that kicked off a debilitating trade dispute with China, which has now cost Australia about $50 billion.
Mr Morrison's position that an investigation is necessary to prevent another pandemic has not changed.
"I strongly support President Biden's recent statement that we need to bolster and accelerate efforts to identify the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic," he is expected to say.
"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."
The Prime Minister leaves Perth on Thursday for Singapore before heading to the G7 meeting of the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada and Italy.
It is being expanded this year to also include leaders from India, South Korea and Australia, with the new grouping termed the G7-plus. Mr Morrison is expected to meet with President Biden face-to-face for the first time on the sidelines of the summit.
COVID-19's emergence has given urgency to the meeting.
"There is much at stake - for Australia, for our region, and the world," the Prime Minister is expected to say on Wednesday.
"We are living in a time of great uncertainty not seen since the 1930s.
"The global pandemic, the recession it has caused and the business-led global recovery the world needs, to restore lives and livelihoods, and the many competing models for global and national economic restoration."
China's attempts to strong-arm Australia with trade sanctions, and the support for Australia, particularly from the United States, colours a major planned push by Mr Morrison at the G7-plus to bolster the role of the WTO and "modernise its rulebook".
"[The world needs] a well-functioning WTO that sets clear rules, arbitrates disputes objectively and efficiently and penalises bad behaviour when it occurs," he will say.
"This can be one of the most powerful tools the international community has to counter economic coercion."
"In my discussions with many leaders I have taken great encouragement from the support shown for Australia's preparedness to withstand economic coercion in recent times."
But Mr Morrison will say the global trading system and rules-based order is "under strain and even threat", with new challenges such as climate change having profound implications for Australia.
He is expected to say he understands the world is moving towards a global net-zero energy economy by 2050, however Australia has reservations.
"It's not an argument about climate change," he is expected to say. "It's about how Australia best advances our interests as part of a world that is dealing with climate change. It's not about if or when. Protecting and advancing Australia's interests is about the how."
"How we engage with this, indeed how we succeed and proposer with this, without putting at risk our manufacturing and heavy industries, the jobs of Australians, especially in regional Australia, without imposing higher costs on Australian families and how we keep the lights on, and not surrender advantage. That is our interest and that is my agenda."
The strategic competition between the United States and China will also be highlighted, as well as "heightened competition" in the Indo-Pacific, a reference to the South China Sea dispute and general friction with China.
The Prime Minister will seek to strike a diplomatic chord.
"The task is to manage that competition," he is expected to say. "Competition does not have to lead to conflict. Nor does competition justify coercion.
"We need all nations to participate in the global system in ways that foster development and co-operation. Australia stands ready to engage in dialogue with all countries on shared challenges, including China when it is ready to do so."
The Prime Minister will also talk of a "renewed strain" under COVID-19. while issuing a rallying cry to liberal democracies to bring order to an uncertain world which he hopes will be "informed by liberal values and grounded in rules-based institutions".
"For inspiration we should look to the years immediately following the Second World War. A world in flux. Competing models for economies and societies," he is expected to say.
"Working together, our countries can support, defend and (where necessary) renovate a liberal, rules-based international order that supports universal human rights and opportunities for all.
"A world order that favours freedom over autocracy and authoritarianism."
After the G7-plus summit, Mr Morrison will hold meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London and with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
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