Australian PM Anthony Albanese Advocates Unhindered Trade with China During Beijing Visit
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, in a significant move, called for the resumption of free and unimpeded trade with China during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Li Qiang, in Beijing. This marks his first visit to Beijing in seven years and is considered a historic diplomatic engagement.
Albanese stressed the importance of Australia and China exploring avenues to shape a regional and global order characterized by peace, stability, and prosperity. He emphasized the need for countries to respect sovereignty and adhere to international law and conventions, particularly in areas such as climate change, food security, and transnational crime.
Amid ongoing tensions between China and the United States, Albanese urged that geostrategic competition should be addressed through dialogue and understanding. He proposed that both countries could enhance their relationship while advancing their respective interests by navigating differences wisely.
In response, Li expressed hope for improved relations between Australia and China in the future. He highlighted the significance of continued cooperation, emphasizing the positive momentum in their relationship.
Meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping:
During his visit, Anthony Albanese had a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which both leaders acknowledged the gradual improvement in their countries' ties over the past year. They stressed the importance of continued engagement despite differences, particularly in the realm of defense.
China, a major market for Australian exports, has already lifted some trade restrictions on Australian products following their initial meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2022. Albanese, in his remarks, described the progress in their relationship as undeniably positive, with trade benefiting both nations.
President Xi mentioned his visits to Australia and shared light-hearted comments about Tasmanian devils and pandas. When the Australian leader remarked that pandas were probably cuter than Tasmanian devils, Xi humorously replied that not all pandas were cute, citing the popular Kung Fu Panda movie.
Background on Strained Relations:
Australia-China relations had deteriorated in recent years due to concerns about Chinese interference in Australian politics and Australia's call for an inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 virus. In response, China imposed tariffs and unofficial trade barriers, impacting Australian exports, including coal, wine, beef, barley, and lobsters, with estimated annual losses of up to 20 billion Australian dollars ($13 billion).
However, these barriers have significantly reduced and now cost about $2 billion Australian dollars ($1.3 billion). There are indications that China is considering lifting punitive tariffs on Australian wine, which previously had a significant negative impact on the Australian wine industry.
During the visit, Albanese confirmed that he raised the case of Yang Hengjun, an Australian democracy blogger detained in China for nearly five years. However, he did not disclose how President Xi responded to the matter.