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Abbott to meet Obama on APEC summit sidelines

The White House announced the two would meet during APEC because it would be difficult to meet later, during the upcoming G20 summit in Brisbane, thanks to Mr Abbott’s role as host.


The two leaders are expected to meet for about an hour on Monday ahead of a joint news conference.

Prominent in the discussions will be the countries’ roles in fighting IS insurgents in the Middle East.

Tony Abbott has also secured a meeting with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, on Tuesday. Having initially threatened to “shirt-front” Mr Putin, Mr Abbott has since toned down his rhetoric.

He is being urged however not to back away from his vow to demand answers from Mr Putin about the circumstances surrounding the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine.

Speaking to the ABC on Sunday, the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said, “(Mr) Putin’s not going to tell us the truth but Tony Abbott has to at least ask.” 

“But I also think that we need to show leadership and be supporting European efforts for peace in Eastern Ukraine.”

The Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who is in Beijing finalising details of a free trade agreement with China, said Mr Abbott needed to have a “blunt conversation” and “if he gets the opportunity, he’ll take it”.

“The PM is very much within his rights but also has a responsibility as he sees it, to represent the Australian people and to ensure that those who caused these murders are brought to justice,” Mr Robb said.

The minister said the trade negotiations with China were in their very final stages but that there were still two issues, which he refused to detail, that remain outstanding.

“We’re nearly there, we are nearly there,” he said. “But you know like all agreements, the hardest part is probably at the end because the more difficult political issues are there… This is huge. This is the biggest deal we will have done by a long shot.”

Both sides are hoping the final deal can be unveiled and signed when Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Canberra after the G20 summit. The president will address a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament on Monday, November 17.

Mr Robb said the government also hopes to eventually join China’s proposed investment bank but that it remainds unconvinced about the governance arrangements.

China is pressing regional countries to formally support the bank but the United States is urging caution, fearing China will use it to push its own political agenda.

China is certainly hoping to use this week’s APEC summit as a showcase and has stopped production in its worst-polluting industries for a week to clear smog from the skies.

It is also hoping for agreement on a regional trade area – a goal beyond the current negotiations spearheaded by the US on a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

In the short term, the 21 member countries of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group have agreed on a set of measures to curb corruption.

The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, welcomed the move. “Corruption not only creates an unfair playing field, it not only distorts economic relationships but corruption also steals from the people of every country the belief that the system can work for everybody,” he said.

The APEC leaders’ summit begins in Beijing on Monday night.