Australia’s Albanese seeks dialogue, cooperation in China visit

By Brenda Goh

SHANGHAI, China (Reuters) -Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, starting the first visit to China by a leader of his country in seven years, said on Sunday it was “in all our interests” to have a bilateral relationship with dialogue and cooperation.

Australia will continue to work constructively with China, he said in a short speech to the annual China International Import Expo in Shanghai, which was opened by Premier Li Qiang.

Albanese is the first Australian leader to visit China since 2016, part of an effort to patch up relations that had deteriorated over several years due to disputes over Chinese telecoms firm Huawei, espionage and COVID-19.

After the speech, addressing media alongside Trade Minister Don Farrell, Albanese said he welcomed Li’s comments at the Expo and described them as “very positive”. Li said China will further expand market access and imports.

Farrell said after meeting with his Chinese counterpart on Saturday he expected impediments on Australian seafood and red meat products to be removed “in a very short space of time”.

Albanese, in his speech, described the relationship between the two countries as “mature” and said it was “energised by the complementary nature of our economies”.

“Along with the other economies in our region, Australia and China have prospered thanks to the certainty and stability that is made possible by rules-based trade,” Albanese said, according to an official transcript.

Albanese’s government has worked to stabilise ties with China since coming to office last year, and China has lifted most trade blocks imposed in a 2020 diplomatic dispute that cost A$20 billion in commodity and food exports.

“We continue to highly value the World Trade Organisation, whose role as an independent and respected umpire benefits us all,” Albanese said, without directly mentioning any disputes.

Albanese, on Monday, will meet President Xi Jinping in Beijing, where the prime minister has said he will raise concerns over rising tensions in the South China Sea.

On arriving in Shanghai late on Saturday, Albanese said it was in Australia’s interests to have a positive and constructive dialogue with its major trading partner.

Albanese said on Saturday, before leaving for China, that the much-anticipated visit to meet with Xi and Li marked a “very positive step” in stabilising strained bilateral ties.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh, Martin Quin Pollard and Sam McKeith; Editing by William Mallard and Michael Perry)