China’s premier arrives in Australia, says ties ‘back on track’

By Reuters
June 16, 2024
China's Premier Li Qiang waves as he arrives at Adelaide Airport on June 15, 2024, in Adelaide, Australia. — Reuters

SYDNEY: Chinese Premier Li Qiang arrived in Australia on Saturday, saying relations were “back on track” as he started the first visit by a Chinese premier to the major trading partner in seven years.

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Australia is “uniquely positioned to connect the West and the East” and stands as “an important force of economic globalization and world multipolarity”, Li said at Adelaide’s airport, according to a statement from the Chinese embassy.

Bilateral relations are “back on track after a period of twists and turns”, Li said.

Australia is the biggest supplier of iron ore to China, which has been an investor in Australian mining projects, though some recent Chinese investment in critical minerals has been blocked by Australia on national interest grounds.

China imposed trade restrictions on a raft of Australian agricultural and mineral products in 2020 during a diplomatic dispute that has now largely eased.

During his four-day visit, Li will also visit the capital Canberra and mining state Western Australia.

“A more mature, stable and fruitful comprehensive strategic partnership will be a treasure shared by the people of both countries,” Li said.

He is expected to visit a pair of pandas on loan from China to Adelaide’s zoo on Sunday. A lunch with wine exporters until recently shut out of the Chinese market will show trade ties have smoothed after the dispute that suspended A$20 billion ($13 billion) in Australian agriculture and mineral exports through last year.

Li arrived from New Zealand, where he highlighted Chinese demand for New Zealand’s agricultural products.

China is the biggest trading partner of Australia and New Zealand. Canberra and Wellington are seeking to balance trade with regional security concerns over China’s ambitions in the Pacific Islands.

In New Zealand, Li visited major dairy exporter Fonterra on Saturday after signing agreements with Prime Minister Christopher Luxon on trade and climate change, with human rights and foreign interference also on the agenda.

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