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World News

Australia says U.S. return to Paris Agreement, WHO under Biden would be welcome

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia would welcome President-elect Joe Biden restoring the United States to the Paris climate accord, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, speaking as he faced renewed pressure himself to boost efforts to cut Australia’s carbon emissions.

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“We would be welcoming the United States back into the Paris Agreement, somewhere we’ve always been,” Morrison told reporters, saying a U.S. return to other global organisations like the World Health Organization (WHO) would also be welcome.

The United States formally withdrew from the Paris climate agreement last week, but Biden has promised to rejoin the Paris pact, and also commit to net zero emissions by 2050.

Although Australia state and territory governments have adopted the same 2050 target for net zero emissions, Morrison’s federal government has yet to do so. Australia is a major exporter of fossil fuels, particularly coal, and Morrison said many countries have made qualified climate commitments.

On Monday independent lawmaker Zali Steggall introduced a climate bill to federal parliament seeking a net zero target, saying Australia would be “the pariah of the international community” if it didn’t strengthen its climate commitments.

Meanwhile, underlining Australia’s frustration with the outgoing President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies, Morrison said Australia would welcome the U.S. back to the WHO, and potentially the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, signed by Australia and 10 other countries in 2018.

On Sunday, Morrison said Australia would also welcome the U.S. engaging with the World Trade Organization, because the way out of a global recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic is “market-based trade, fair trade, under the proper rules through the World Trade Organization”.

Australia is currently embroiled in a worsening commercial and diplomatic relationship with China, its largest trading partner.

Australian exporters have expressed concern that Chinese importers were warned off buying seven categories of Australian products from November 6.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said Chinese authorities had denied an “outright ban across a sweeping range of product categories”, and products appeared to be moving through Chinese ports at this stage.

Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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