Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (L) arrives to a Ceremonial Welcome with Chinese Premier Li Qiang (R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 07 November 2023. EFE/EPA/LUKAS COCH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

China, Australia to resume annual PM meetings

Beijing, Nov 7 (EFE).- Australia and China agreed Tuesday to resume their annual meeting of prime ministers during a meeting between Chinese Premier Li Qiang and his Australian counterpart, Anthony Albanese.

“Both sides welcomed the successful recommencement of the Annual Leaders’ Meeting between Premier Li and Prime Minister Albanese,” read a statement from the Australian Prime Minister’s Office.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (R) meets with Chinese Premier Li Qiang (L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 07 November 2023. EFE/EPA/LUKAS COCH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Li, while speaking to reporters, spoke of wanting to promote mutual understanding and friendship between the two countries.

This meeting comes after China blocked visas for Australian foreign correspondents for more than three years.

The Chinese politician thanked Albanese for his visit, which he noted has been closely followed by Chinese social networks, generating a positive response.

For his part, Albanese expressed his gratitude to Li and recalled that it is the third time they have met in a short period of time, after previous meetings in Jakarta and New Delhi.

The Australian leader also paid homage to former Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and expressed condolences over his death on Oct.27.

Moreover, Albanese highlighted the 50th anniversary of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s visit to China in 1973 and its historic importance, while underlining the need to resume unhindered trade and work together on shared challenges such as climate change, food security or transnational crimes.

He also underlined that Australia would stand firm in defending its interests and values, but stressed the importance of managing differences wisely.

On Monday, Albanese met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which he highlighted the benefits of a “strong” bilateral relationship in which there is communication “where differences arise.”

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.

The recent visit, which concluded on Tuesday, marked a significant rapprochement between the two nations, which Albanese described as an important step towards stabilizing relations.

Nevertheless, Australia maintains its commitments to the AUKUS security pact signed in 2021 with the United States and the United Kingdom with the aim of countering China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific, which is among the main reasons for friction with the Asian giant.

China is Australia’s main trading partner, with an exchange in 2022 of almost AU$300 billion (about $193 billion). EFE