Sydney, Australia, Nov 6 (EFE).- Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday highlighted the importance of ties with China ahead of a meeting in Beijing with President Xi Jinping, an important step towards the normalization of bilateral relations.
Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visits the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China, 06 November 2023. EFE/EPA/LUKAS COCH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
“It is in our interests to have positive relations. There are differences. We have different political systems,” Albanese said Monday in a press conference in Beijin — according to an official transcript, adding that China is Australia’s “most important trading partner.”
Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong (L) and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (R) speak to reporters at a press conference after visiting the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China, 06 November 2023. EFE/EPA/LUKAS COCH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
Monday afternoon’s meeting between Xi and Albanese is a significant step by the Australian government, which since coming to power in May 2022, has aimed to normalize bilateral relations with Beijing without weakening its strategic alliance with Washington.
For Albanese, there have already been some “promising signs” in the normalization of bilateral relations, which have been shown in the lifting of tariffs against key Australian products.
In light of these advances, the prime minister reiterated his commitment to continue maintaining an “honest,” “upfront” and “respectful” relationship with China, although he did not give details on issues that he will address later with Xi.
“What I’ve said is that we need to cooperate with China where we can, disagree where we must and engage in our national interest. And I look forward to constructive discussion this afternoon,” Albanese added.
He also made it clear that his government will defend its interests, including the AUKUS pact that Australia signed with the United Kingdom and the United States in 2021, and which includes the development and acquisition of nuclear submarines for Canberra.
AUKUS is “a vehicle to promote security, peace and stability in the region,” the leader said.
Albanese is on an official trip to the Asian giant during Nov. 4-7 for the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations and includes meetings with China’s Prime Minister Li Qiang.
The last Australian leader to visit China was Malcolm Turnbull in 2016, while Xi traveled to Australia for the first and last time in 2014, although the current leaders met last year during the G20 summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.
Bilateral relations between Australia and China began to strain in 2017 over Australian laws against foreign interference, Canberra’s exclusion of Chinese companies from 5G services in 2018, the call for an investigation into the origins of Covid-19 in 2020 and other reasons.
China adopted tough trade measures in 2020 against Australian products, which it has been progressively lifting since last year, and has expressed its discomfort with Australia’s position on issues related to human rights and strategic matters.
China is Australia’s main trading partner, with an exchange in 2022 of almost AU$300 billion (about $193 billion). EFE