Australia PM joins Trump calling for China to drop "developing economy" status

By Byron Kaye

Sept 24 (Reuters) - Global trade rules are "no longer fit for purpose" and must be changed to accommodate China's new status as a developed economy, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a major foreign policy speech in the United States.

The global community had engaged with China to help it grow but now must demand the world's second-largest economy bring more transparency to its trade relationships and take a greater share of the responsibilty for addressing climate change, Morrison said.

"The world's global institutions must adjust their settings for China, in recognition of this new status," said Morrison in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, referring to China as a "newly developed economy".

"That means more will be expected of course, as has always been the case for nations like the United States who've always had this standing," Morrison said in the speech, according to transcript provided to Reuters.

Global trade rules were "no longer fit for purpose" and in some cases were "designed for a completely different economy in another era, one that simply doesn't exist any more", he added.

Referring to China as a newly developed economy marks a change from Beijing's self-declared status as a developing economy, which affords it concessions such as longer times to implement agreed commitments, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

It also puts Australia into line with a campaign led by U.S. President Donald Trump to remove China's developing nation status. In an April 7, 2018 tweet, Trump wrote that China was a "great economic power" but received "tremendous perks and advantages, especially over the U.S."

Morrison has previously urged China to reform its economy and end a trade war with the United States but has until now stopped short of taking a public position on its WTO status.

While two-way trade between Australia and China has grown since the countries signed a trade pact in 2015, increasing to a record A$183 billion ($127 billion) last year, the bilateral relationship has at times been strained.

In December 2017, former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull accused China of meddling in its domestic affairs. The relationship was further soured by Canberra’s decision last year to effectively ban Chinese telecoms firm Huawei Technologies from its 5G broadband network rollout.

Morrison said Australia and the United States had different relationships with China, given Australia had a trade surplus with China while the United States had a trade deficit.

"The engagement with China has been enormously beneficial to our country," he said. "We want to see that continue." (Reporting by Byron Kaye in Sydney. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)