Anthony Albanese has revealed he discussed opportunities for Australia to commercialise new clean technology with the US during conversations with Joe Biden on the sidelines of international summits over the past week.
Winding up his nine-day travel program on Saturday in Bangkok – and as the Cop27 in Egypt moved into end game – Australia’s prime minister told journalists he spoke to Biden “about how Australia can benefit from his groundbreaking Inflation Reduction Act” passed in the US earlier this year.
“The Inflation Reduction Act envisages an enormous investment in clean technology,” Albanese said on Saturday. “Australia has an opportunity through green hydrogen, through other innovations working to gain jobs and economic opportunity.”
Albanese said the Biden administration was not looking at the clean energy transition “as a closed nation-state”. He said Biden was looking for partnerships with other countries.
He said Australia “punched above our weight” when it came to breakthrough ideas but “what we haven’t been good at in the past is commercialising … opportunities and giving Australia the advantages”.
“I see the Inflation Reduction Act as being part of that.”
Albanese said he also used the opportunity of participating in the Asean, East Asia, G20 and Apec summits to lobby other world leaders to support Australia’s bid to host a future UN-led climate conference in partnership with the Pacific. He said the idea was getting a positive reception.
Australia’s prime minister said his participation in the summits of the past week had reinforced his understanding that most of the world’s contemporary problems required international cooperation to solve. He said “you can’t have one-nation solutions to issues that are global”.
“They require goodwill and they require countries to work together for the common interest,” Albanese said. “That is what I have sought to do over the last eight days – to send a message that Australia want to engage constructively and work with our partners in the region and throughout the world.
“I believe Australia has taken significant steps forward over the past eight days.”
The Apec summit winds up on Saturday evening. On the final day, Albanese met the Thai prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, and the president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, on the sidelines of the summit.
On Friday, Australia’s prime minister joined the US vice-president, Kamala Harris, the prime minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, South Korea’s prime minister, Han Duck-soo, and the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, in a huddle to condemn North Korea’s provocative launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
North Korea responded to the joint call for an emergency session of the UN security council by declaring it would respond to any nuclear threats with nuclear weapons.
As well as provocations from North Korea, all of the summits of the past week have been overshadowed by the ongoing war in Ukraine, and by regional anxiety about the implications of great power competition between the US and China.
From the Australian perspective, the key diplomatic breakthrough of the trip was a cautious thaw in the frosty relationship between Australia and China.
According to a report in the New Zealand Herald, Ardern walked away from a 50-minute meeting with China’s president, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of Apec with an invitation to start working on dates for a visit to Beijing.
New Zealand has pursued a more conciliatory diplomatic line than Australia on China. Asked on Saturday whether he would also like an invitation to visit the country now he had re-established leader-level dialogue with Xi, Albanese said the relationship reboot was in its infancy “and I’m not getting ahead of myself”.
He said it was “constructive” for Australia to keep engaging with China and with other countries. “We’ll continue, arising out of this week’s progress, to take steps forward together.”
Asked whether he had had more interaction informally with the Chinese delegation than his two conversations with Li Keqiang and Xi, Albanese said “we have informal interactions because we are all in the same building”.
“I’m a polite bloke, I say hello to people,” Albanese said. “It costs you nothing to be courteous. That’s my style, I hope you notice that. I do it even with people in the media, although of course you know I love each and every one of you.”
Apec generally concludes with a “family photo”, with leaders wearing matching shirts. Unusually, the Bangkok summit did not conclude on that note. Officials say the absence of shirts reflected the wish of the Thai government.
Summits this week have seen pitched battles behind the scenes over statements and communiques given splits in the membership. China and Russia have objected to collective condemnations of the war in Ukraine.
Albanese will return to Canberra on Sunday morning for the final sitting fortnight of the parliament for 2022.