Photo of Donald Trump

The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia

September 20, 2019

President Trump. Well, thank you very much. Please. We had a spectacular morning, and it's an honor being with the Prime Minister and Mrs. Morrison. Thank you very much. Australia is a fantastic country and a brilliant ally. We just spent a lot of time together with our representatives, and they get along very well, and we're doing a lot of deals. And we talked military. We talked trade. We talked about everything you can talk about. And we came to the same conclusion, I think, in every case.

But I just want to say it's an honor having both of you here. Thank you very much. You have a truly great country, and I don't think we've ever had a better relationship than we have right now.

And tonight we're going to have something very special in the Rose Garden. And based on all of that money we spend on all of that weather-predicting equipment, they're saying, "No chance of rain." [Laughter] Let's see if that's right. If it is, we'll run right back into this room. [Laughter]

But we're going to have a fantastic evening. And, First Lady, thank you very much. You worked very hard on this. So it's not going to rain. It's going to be a beautiful evening. And great job. Really great job, honey.

Thank you. Please, Scott.

Prime Minister Morrison. Thank you, Mr. President and Mrs. Trump. We thank you also very much for the incredibly warm and generous welcome that Jenny and I and our delegation have had here in Washington, in this great home of the American Presidency and indeed your home.

One of many things that the President and I share in common is a passion for jobs. And the job performance here in the United States, the jobs that are being created in Australia, the jobs that change people's lives—you know, when people get a job, they've got choices. And Australia and the United States, we're committed to creating jobs. And whether it's in trade or it's whether—in looking at the future and where those jobs are going to come from, we want our people to have those economic opportunities.

I commend the President on the great work he's done in creating jobs here in the United States. And we're doing the same thing in Australia. And if you want to keep creating jobs, then this partnership is a big part of that. And that's why we're pleased to come together here. We share objectives in so many areas. We share common values. We share beliefs. We've shared a wonderful century together. And now we're going to have a—another great century together of mateship.

So thank you, Mr. President. And thank you for the opportunity for the discussions we've had today. We are very much looking forward to the state dinner this evening. And, Mrs. Trump, you're doing something special there tonight. We don't know if it's the first ever, but as the President said, "perhaps the first ever." And that's just another great innovation, which is part of this wonderful visit. So thank you very much.

President Trump. Well, thank you very much, Scott. It's a great honor.

Go ahead. Please. China-U.S. Trade/U.S. Tariff Structure on Chinese Imports/U.S. Economy/U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement

Q. Mr. President, you've been negotiating with the Chinese, and there seems to be a possibility, in terms of a China trade deal, that they might actually offer some agricultural purchases. Is that going to be enough for you sir——

President Trump. No.

Q. ——in order to get a deal done? What do you need to see at this point to get that deal past the finish line?

President Trump. We're looking for a complete deal. I'm not looking for a partial deal. China has been starting to buy our agricultural product—if you noticed over the last week—and actually, some very big purchases.

But that's not what I'm looking for; we're looking for the big deal. We've taken it to this level. We're taking in billions and billions of dollars of tariffs. China has devalued their currency, and they're putting out a lot of money into their economy. And they have a very bad economy right now, and I don't want them to have a bad economy. But it's the worst in, they say, 57 years. Two weeks ago, it was the worst in 22 years. Now it's 57 years, and it's only going to get worse. Their supply chain is being broken up very badly.

And companies are leaving because they can't pay the 25—soon to go to 30—percent tariff. And we have 30 percent very shortly on $250 billion. We have another tariff at a slightly smaller number, as you know, on other—on about 300 billion dollars' worth of goods and products.

So they would like to do something. As you know, we're talking a little bit this week, talking a lot next week. And then, top people are going to be speaking the week following. But I'm not looking for a partial deal; I'm looking for a complete deal.

Q. Do you feel you need that deal before the election, sir?

President Trump. No. I don't think I need it before the election. I think people know that we're doing a great job. I've rebuilt the military. We've—Scott and I were talking about that. We spent 1½ trillion dollars. When I came in, our military was depleted. Frankly, we didn't have ammunition, okay? But our military was in very bad shape. We've rebuilt the military. We've got one of the strongest economies.

Mike Pence, actually, got some—who is right here. Our great Vice President. He was talking yesterday and he called me. He says, "Boy, these numbers—these consumer numbers are incredible." The retail numbers that came out 2 days ago, that really weren't reported, were really—I mean, just incredible numbers. You know that very well. That's your world. And some other numbers.

We're doing very well. Our economy is very strong. And China is being affected very badly. We're not; we're not being affected. In fact, we're taking in many billions of dollars. And China is eating that. You know, China is eating the tariffs because of the devaluation. Now, that doesn't happen with all countries. China is China, and they know what they're doing as well as anybody.

My relationship with President Xi is a very amazing one, very good one. But we have, right now, a little spat. But I think we're doing very well.

Our country is doing well. You look at so many different things. Look at all of the regulation cutting that allows us to do what we did. Look at what happens 3 days ago, where you have an attack like that and it takes out a big chunk of oil, and the prices go up $4, $5, and now it's heading down rapidly. That tells you—that would have happened years ago, it would have gone up $50. It would've doubled. And this was a blip.

So it's been really amazing what we've been able to do. I think the voters understand that. I don't think it has any impact on the election.

Now, if something happened, I think that would probably be a positive for the election, but that's okay. I do think signing USMCA on a bipartisan basis with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and everybody else—very bipartisan—I think that's very important for our country. And I would certainly be willing to say that's a bipartisan deal.

But I think that's very important for our manufacturers, for our farmers. Even for unions, they want that deal done. And so, hopefully, that's going to be put up to a vote very soon. There will be very little cajoling of the Democrats, because most Democrats want it too.

But the USMCA is ready to be voted on. It's finished. Mexico has taken their final votes. Canada is willing to do that any time we want them too. They're all set to go. And we need that for all of the—we need that for our country. It's a great deal. It's a great deal.

Thank you.

China-U.S. Trade

Q. And for the Prime Minister: Sir, your economy is to some degree caught in the cross-currents between the United States and China. What did you say to the President about what your ideal outcome is here for a China trade agreement between the United States and China?

Prime Minister Morrison. Well, thank you. Look, obviously, we're keen to see the United States and China be able to come to an agreement. But what is always necessary is that deals have got to be fair. Deals have got to be good deals. Deals have got to be sustainable deals.

And I think one of things we've seen: Australia has benefited greatly from the economic growth of China. We have a comprehensive strategic partnership with China and a free trade agreement with China. And they have grown, and they have become, you know, a substantive economy in the world. And once you sort of get into that level, then you need to be able to be playing to the same rules as those other developed nations.

And I think this is, you know, the new generation of deals I think we'll see China do, which the President has been working on, and he's been working on it for some time. And we wish him well in that process.

There are some real serious issues that have to be addressed in that deal. Things like intellectual property. That's a—that's a big issue, and it needs to be addressed. So we look forward to them achieving it and that providing, I think, the broader certainty and stability to the global economy, which all nations will benefit from.

President Trump. And we could do, Scott, a very big deal with China, and it could go very quickly, as you know. But it wouldn't be the appropriate deal. We have to do it right. And that's a very complicated deal, with intellectual property protection. We have to do that and other things. I could leave lots out and have a deal very quickly, but we want to do it right.


Prime Minister Morrison. Yes, sure. Andrew [Andrew Probyn, Australian Broadcast Corporation].

President Trump. I assume Andrew is a nice person? [Laughter] That's why you chose him? Australian Economy/China-U.S. Trade/Australia-U.S. Trade/Australia's Extractive Industries

Q. Thank you, Mr. President, the best. [Laughter] Thank you very much for hosting us. Also on China and tariffs: What do you say to Australian businesses and to Australian people who say that your trade war with President Xi threatens their prosperity?

And to the Prime Minister, a linked question: Do you think that Australians are going to be collateral damage in President Trump's tariff war with China?

President Trump. Well, first of all, you know, I look at numbers. I love numbers. And the numbers of Australia are doing incredibly well. You're doing unbelievably well.

When we have a deal with China—or not—but when we have a deal with China—because they want to make it perhaps more than I want to make it. Because I actually love all the billions of dollars that's pouring into our Treasury. Billions and billions of dollars. We've never seen that before from China. It's always been the other way.

But when—and I'm taking care of our farmers out of that. We're helping our farmers. Our farmers were targeted, and they were targeted for $16 billion. And I made that up to them. We paid them the $16 billion and had tens of billions of dollars left over.

So I will say, though, that Australia is doing very well. If we do end up doing a deal, Australia will do even better. And we were discussing that. But Australia will be one of the big beneficiaries of a deal.

And, in the meantime, as you know, I did tariff relief, with respect to a certain product in particular coming out of Australia. And that's something that we wouldn't do for anybody else. This has been a truly great ally, and we work very well together.

But you—your numbers are absolutely fantastic. Your economy is strong like ours. And I think we're two real examples of two countries doing extremely well. Some countries aren't doing so well.

Prime Minister Morrison. That's true.

President Trump. Europe is not doing well. Asia is not doing—large parts of Asia are not doing well. China is not doing well.


Prime Minister Morrison. Thanks. Mr. President, Australia is in its 29th year of consecutive economic growth, which is an extraordinary national achievement. And we will continue to grow as our most recent national accounts demonstrated.

Australia is also very used to dealing with a complex and changing world. And that's why we've diversified our trade base and have been doing that for many years. I mean, 6 years ago, when our government came to office, 27 percent of our trade was covered by agreements around the world. That figure is now 70 percent, and we're going to take that to 90 percent. And that's important. And that's opening up opportunities.

So there are ebbs and flows that go in the global economy, and Australia has built up a resilience through the broad-based nature in which we're taking our economy to the world. I mean, Australia has never got rich selling things to itself. And we've always had an outward looking perspective when it comes to engaging our economic opportunities.

And a big part of what we've been discussing here is some new opportunities, whether it's in the rare earth metals, the critical minerals, the frontier technologies, space. You know, this is where jobs are going to be in the future, as well. And so we will deal with those ebbs and flows as they come.

But the President is right: The arrangement they will come to—and I'm confident they will—with China will be one that will set, you know, a new bar in terms of how China's economy then deals with a lot of these complicated issues in the future with developed economies like Australia. So we look on with interest. And I think, ultimately, when we arrive at that point, it's going to put global trade on a stronger footing.

President Trump. And Australia has really been so focused on the economy. They do minerals. They have incredible wealth in minerals and coal and other things.

And they are really at the leading edge of coal technology. It's clean coal. We call it "clean coal," but it's also great for the workers. And things that would happen to—because it was very dangerous years ago and very bad for a lot of people. And you've rectified that 100 percent. It's incredible. I looked at your statistics the other day, and coal miners are very, very safe in Australia.

Prime Minister Morrison. True.

President Trump. It's incredible what you've done. In fact, we're looking at what you've done. [Laughter] But so——

Prime Minister Morrison. We can do a deal on that.

President Trump. So I want to—I want to—we'll do a deal. We'll make a deal.

Yes. Go ahead. Please.

Additional U.S. Sanctions on Iran/U.S. Military Readiness/National Security Adviser Robert C. O'Brien/2017 Release of Otto F. Warmbier From Captivity in North Korea/U.S. Hostage Release Negotiations

Q. Thank you. In the midst of these escalating tensions with Iran, you've now named a new National Security Adviser, Robert O'Brien.

President Trump. Yes.

Q. What is he recommending to you in terms of dealing with the latest strikes on Saudi Arabia and the response?

And then, secondly, you announced new sanctions on Iran. Secretary Mnuchin said that this affects the last available funds for that regime. Have we now exhausted sanctions in regards to Iran?

President Trump. Well, these are the strongest sanctions ever put on a country. We are at a level of sanction that is far greater than ever before with respect to Iran. Today we did Central Bank, as you know. And we'll see. We'll see.

They're having a lot of problems, not only with us; they're having problems within their own country. And I think they have a lot of self-made problems.

We are, by far, the strongest military in the world. Going into Iran would be a very easy decision. As I said before, it'd be very easy. The easiest thing. Most people thought I would go in within 2 seconds, but plenty of time. Plenty of time.

In the meantime, they have a lot of problems within Iran. Iran could be a great country, could be a rich country. But they are choosing to go a different way. There'll be a point at which they'll be very sorry for that choice. But I think I'm showing great restraint. A lot of people respect it; some people don't. Some people say, "Oh, you should go in immediately." And other people are so thrilled at what I'm doing. And I don't do it for anybody; I do it for what's good for the United States, what's good for our allies. And it's working out really, very well.

As far as Robert is concerned, he's—Robert, maybe you could stand up? Robert O'Brien is done a fantastic job for us with hostage negotiations. I think we can say that there has never been anybody that has done better than you and I as a combination. We've brought many people home, and we brought them home quickly. Speed is a very important thing, I find, with hostages. It's really something.

I had dinner the other night with the Warmbier family, an incredible family—the whole family and some of Otto's friends, in addition to the family. We had 25 people over on Saturday night. And we did that dinner in Otto—really, in Otto's honor. And it was a beautiful thing. It was a beautiful thing.

The First Lady and I, it was very—you know, it was very touching and really very beautiful. We talked about Otto. And I will tell you that people should have moved faster. And Robert and I were talking about that. Should have moved faster. He was there for a long time.

You've got to move fast. With hostages, you have to move fast. All of a sudden, it gets very hard for the other side to do anything. And sometimes, it's just too late. In the case of Otto, it was very late. We got him home, but he was in horrible, horrible condition. What happened to him was actually incredible and just horrible.

But you have to move fast. Robert and I have been really successful. And the reason I know him so well—I actually work hard on hostages, I think he would say. I think most Presidents wouldn't do that, but I do. These are great—I guess, in almost all cases—American lives. And we help other people, also. We've also helped other countries with their hostage situation, where we have some strength that they don't.

But these are great people. And we get them home. We got them home from North Korea, as you know. And we got them home from a lot of different locations. Egypt—we got them home. We got them home from many different locations. Turkey. President Erdogan was very good. And we got a hostage home, who—our great pastor, who everyone in this room knows and loves.

But we've had tremendous success. And what's surprised me, I didn't know too many people knew Robert. And when it came time to pick somebody for the position—it's a very critical time—I had so many people—I shouldn't say this in front of Robert, he'll be embarrassed, but I had so many people that called me, and they recommended Robert O'Brien. So I think he's going to do a great job.

And he was here—I can tell you this—he started about 12 minutes after he was chosen. He sat in with us. And he's very much involved now on what we're doing.

Iran/U.S. Military Readiness/U.S. Nuclear Arsenal/Australia-U.S. Trade/Australian Defense Spending

Q. One quick follow-up on that, in regards to Iran. If sanctions don't work and they continue their malign activity, is there any other measures outside of a military option that can be taken, that you're considering?

The President. Well, I don't want to talk about that, but I will say I think the sanctions work. And the military would work, but that's a very severe form of winning. But we win. Nobody can beat us, militarily. Nobody can even come close. What we've done for our military in the last 3 years is incredible. All made in the U.S.A., by the way. And it's really incredible. Our nuclear was getting very tired. They hadn't spent the money on it. And now we have it have it in, as we would say, "tippy-top shape." Tippy-top. It's—we have new, and we have renovated, and it's incredible. And we all should pray that we never have to use it. We should never have to use it. And our military itself is in phenomenal shape.

And we have a great gentleman, as you know, going to be taking over Joint Chiefs of Staff. Joe Dunford has been fantastic. He's a great, great man and a friend of mine. But General Milley is going to be taking over. And it's going to be—we're going to have a little bit of a celebration, both for Joe and for Mark—for everybody.

And you know—as you know, our Secretary of Defense has just come in, Mark Esper. And he's been here for a short period of time, but he's got tremendous energy. He's got it. He knows it. That's what he's been doing for a long period of time, from the day he graduated, or maybe I should say from the day he started at West Point, where he was a top, top scholar, et cetera.

So we have a—we have an incredible people. And Steve Mnuchin is here. We did the sanctions today, and I think they're probably, Steve, the strongest that have ever been put on a country. We will certainly never do that to Australia, I promise you. [Laughter]

Prime Minister Morrison. Pleased to hear it.

Q. Then, one for the Prime Minister, if I may. Mr. Prime Minister, you have been very tough of Huawei, even under pressure. You've been very consistent with the ban even though you've said you have a good working relationship with China and they're important for your economy.

Do you plan to continue to support the United States in the tough stance on China? And can you give any more specifics about what you've told the President you would do to help in his measures to reach a fair trade deal?

Prime Minister Morrison. Well, I—first of all, I mean, we have a—the most perfect of relationships with the United States, and it goes back a century and more, as the President was reminding us on the lawn this morning. We have a comprehensive strategic partnership with China. This is the part of the world in which we live. And managing that relationship is important to Australia's national interest.

One thing I can always assure you, and I think the President can say the same: We will always, both of us, act in the national interests of our countries. We will always put our country's interests first. And that means engaging countries in our own region, not just economically, but at a people-to-people level as well.

We have a lot of operations we do together right across the world, militarily, and we'll continue to do those. But the focus, I think, at the end of the day, has to be what's best for our people. And that means a stable, secure region and the presence of the United States in the Indo-Pacific, where they have been for a very long time, is a stabilizing force in the region. And what does that mean? It means that countries can trade with each other, economies can develop, people come out of poverty.

The United States has had a positive presence in our region, and that's why we always work together, because we share objectives. It isn't a matter of the United States saying to us, "We need you to do this," or Australia saying to the United States, "We need you to do this." It's about us having shared objectives and looking through the world through a similar lens. And so that just naturally brings us together to focus on the things that promote prosperity.

As I started out in my remarks today, we love jobs, the President and I. We love jobs. And we like the jobs here, and we like jobs everywhere. And when people have jobs, well, they tend to focus a bit more on the things that are going on in their lives every day and making sure they can live peacefully with each other. And I don't—— President Trump. And one of the things—important, I think—is during our meeting, we discussed, I said, "What percentage of our—of your military do you buy from us?" And it's—the answer was, "We work it together"——

Prime Minister Morrison. Yes.

President Trump. ——"or it's about a hundred percent."

Prime Minister Morrison. Yes.

President Trump. It's close to a hundred percent. And we make the best equipment. He understands that. But it's a real relationship. They buy a hundred percent of their military—and it's a massive purchase. And it's gotten bigger. I guess, you said the biggest purchase since World War II.

Prime Minister Morrison. Second War. Yes, we'll be at 2 percent of GDP next year. And that comes up from what was the lowest level of defense spending, as a share of the economy, since probably the Second World War. So that's a $200 billion investment. And a lot of that—that's being built in Australia, but it's being built in partnership with the United States and other allies. So it' an important part of what we're doing.

But I think David Crowe [Sydney Morning Herald], from Australia, was next.

Afghanistan/Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Terrorist Organization/Repatriation of Captured Terrorist Suspects

Q. Thank you very much. David Crowe from the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age. Further on the questions on Iran: Mr. President, you've praised the Australian commitment today to deal with Iran in the Persian Gulf. And in your talks today, with Mr. Morrison, did you discuss further military action in order to keep the pressure on Iran? What might those military actions be and what could Australia contribute to that?

President Trump. So we didn't——

Q. And, Mr. Morrison——

President Trump. Yes.

Q. ——on that same issue——

President Trump. Hold it one second. You'll get a second crack. You'll get a shot at your Prime Minister. [Laughter] I'm sure you're looking forward to it.

We didn't discuss too much Iran. We discussed more trade, more China. We discussed Afghanistan, where Australia is helping us. And we're slowly reducing in Afghanistan, as people know. We've been very effective in Afghanistan. And if we wanted to do a certain method of war, we would win that very quickly. But many, many, really, tens of millions of people would be killed. And we think it's unnecessary.

But they've been—Australia has been a great help to us in Afghanistan. But we're reducing in Afghanistan. We're reducing in Syria, where we had—you know, we've taken over 100 percent of the caliphate. We have 100 percent. When I came in, it was smaller, but it was a mess. It was all over. And now it's in a position.

And I won't repeat what I said before, with the prisoners, but we have thousands of ISIS fighters from our work in capturing 100 percent of the caliphate. And we're asking the countries from where they came—whether it's Germany, or France, or other countries—to take those people back, put them on trial, do what they have to do with them. But the United States will not keep thousands and thousands of people for the next possibly 50 years of whatever it may be. It's going to be up to those countries. We did them a big favor. We went in. We took them down. The ISIS fighters, in the end, weren't very good fighters against the United States. But we have thousands of them, and we want them to be taken over by Germany, France, and all of those countries from where they came. Okay.

Q. Thank you. And Mr. Morrison, on the same issue of Iran: Are you open to further military action against Iran, or is the Australian commitment solely contained to a freedom of navigation patrol exercise?

Prime Minister Morrison. Well, as the President said, I mean, there are—there are no further activities planned or requested for assistance from Australia. So the question, to that extent, is moot.

And I want to commend the President, who is demonstrating, as he said in the earlier press conference in the Oval Office, you know, restraint. There are other measures that he and the Secretary have announced today, and they are pursuing those channels. So the calibrated, I think, very measured response that the United States is taking has been a matter for them.

And obviously, at any time, when issues are raised with us, as an ally, we consider them on their merits at the time and in Australia's national interest. So I think that's that's heading.

President Trump. Well, thank you very much. And, Jennifer, thank you very much. First Lady, thank you. And I hope you're going to be able to see tonight—to the media—because really it's going to be a beautiful evening in honor of Australia and the Morrisons. Thank you very much.

Prime Minister Morrison. Thank you.

President Trump. Thank you. Thank you.

Prime Minister Morrison. Thank you.

NOTE: The President's news conference began at 12:21 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi; Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer; Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim, and Kim Dong-chul, U.S. citizens formerly detained by North Korean officials who returned to the U.S. on May 10, 2018; Falls Church, VA, resident Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian American aid worker who was released from captivity by the Egyptian Government on April 20, 2017, after being held in prison since May 2014; and Andrew C. Brunson, pastor, Dirilis (Resurrection) Church in Izmir, Turkey, who was detained by Turkish authorities on October 7, 2016, and returned to the U.S. custody on October 12, 2018.

Donald J. Trump, The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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