New plan after Biden cans Aussie visit
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will still visit Australia next week as planned, despite the cancellation of the Quad leaders’ summit in Sydney, Anthony Albanese has confirmed.
The Prime Minister was due to host Mr Modi, US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio — three of the world’s most powerful leaders — at the Sydney Opera House on May 24 after a week packed with events in the NSW capital designed to “showcase Australia to the world”.
But those plans were abandoned on Wednesday morning after Mr Biden cancelled his trip to Australia, citing unfolding difficulties in negotiating an increase to the US’ debt ceiling with Republicans in Washington.
In a major blow, Mr Biden’s decision to pull out was announced just hours after Mr Albanese’s office confirmed the American leader would address federal parliament in Canberra — an event which has also now been cancelled.
Speaking to ABC Radio Brisbane on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Albanese said he was disappointed but insisted Mr Biden would visit Australia “sometime in the future” and reiterated he would make his own trip to the US later this year.
Mr Albanese said Mr Modi would still travel to Australia even though the Quad meeting had been canned.
While Mr Kishida is no longer expected to travel to Australia, Mr Modi is due to visit Sydney as planned with an itinerary that includes a public event at the city’s Olympic Park as well as meetings with business officials.
“I look forward to welcoming him to Sydney,” Mr Albanese said.
Mr Albanese said he and the three other leaders of the quadrilateral security dialogue would get together on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima on the weekend, which Australia has been invited to attend as a guest of Japan.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Albanese said he and his office were in “discussions” with Tokyo and Delhi over their prime ministers’ travel plans, and indicated a senior US government official could fill Mr Biden’s spot at the Quad before confirming the summit would not go ahead at all.
Mr Albanese said he had spoken to Mr Biden early on Wednesday morning, where the President had apologised that he would “now have to postpone this visit”, because of “unfolding difficulties he is facing in his negotiations with the US Congress over the US government debt ceiling”.
The US is on the brink of an economic crisis that could have global implications, with the US Department of Treasury on track to run out of money as early as June 1.
Mr Biden has asked congress to agree to raise the country’s debt ceiling to legally allow the Treasury to incur more debt in order to pay its bills, while Republicans have requested spending cuts in exchange for their support.
“These negotiations are scheduled to enter their critical and concluding phase during the last week of May,” Mr Albanese said.
“Regrettably, this conflicts with the President’s visits to Sydney and Canberra. The President and I agreed that we would work to reschedule his visit to Australia at the earliest opportunity.”
Mr Albanese said he was “absolutely certain” President Biden “wishes this wasn’t happening”.
“It is behaviour that clearly is not in the interests of the people of the United States, but it’s also because the US has a critical role as the world’s largest economy, so it has implications for the global economy as well,” he told ABC Radio Sydney.
The White House early on Wednesday confirmed Mr Biden would return to the US on Sunday when the G7 summit wraps up, and that the President had spoken to both Mr Albanese and Papua New Guinea’s President James Marape’s office as well.
Mr Marape was preparing to host Mr Biden in Port Moresby the day before the President was due to arrive in Sydney.
Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Mr Biden needed to return to the US in order to be back for meetings with Congressional leaders to ensure that Congress takes action by the deadline to avert defaulting on its loans.
She said “revilatising and reinvigorating our alliances and advancing partnerships remains a key priority for the President”.
“This is vital to our ability to advance our foreign policy goals and better promote global stability and prosperity,” she said in a statement.
“We look forward to finding other ways to engage with Australia, the Quad, Papua New Guinea and the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum in the coming year.”
Mr Biden has invited Mr Albanese to the US later this year for an official state visit.
Mr Biden was set to become the first US President to visit Australia since 2014 and the fifth US President ever to give a joint address to the Australian parliament.
He was scheduled to hold bilateral talks with Mr Albanese, where the two leaders were to discuss the “broad friendship” between their two countries as well as “elevating global climate ambition”.
They were also expected to discuss ways to support global economic growth, job creation, and provide affordable, secure and reliable clean energy during the clean energy transition.
Mr Biden’s visit would have followed Mr Albanese’s trip to the US in March, where the details of Australia’s plans to acquire nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS agreement with the US and United Kingdom were unveiled.
The Quad security dialogue is widely viewed as a way for its four democratic member nations to collectively push back against China’s expanding influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Next week’s Sydney meeting would have been the first time Australia has hosted the Quad and would have come after Mr Albanese attended last year’s summit in Tokyo in May last year shortly after winning office.
Inflation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, energy policy and strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific region were among the items on the agenda for the leaders’ discussion.