China's PM voices support for free trade on Australia visit

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, second left, is given a Sydney Swans' team scarf along with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, right, after the scarfs were thrown to them from a crowd member ahead of an Australian Rule Football League match between the Swans and the Port Adelaide at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Saturday, March 25, 2017. Li and Turnbull will hold the fifth annual meeting of the two prime ministers.

Li, on his first trip to New Zealand since he took office in 2013, was welcomed to Government House in Wellington by a Maori haka, a traditional dance and a cannon salute.

Over the past 45 years of diplomatic ties, China and Australia have embraced a deepening friendship and witnessed great achievements across a number of fields, he said.

Both leaders agreed to strengthen people-to-people exchanges.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday said his country is not seeking to militarise the South China Sea and its presence in the area is only to maintain freedom of navigation. The region, which contributes 40% to Australia's landmass, will be actively developed over the next 20 years.

The two countries are now making further in-roads in boosting economic cooperation, as they explore a connection between the development of Northern Australia and China's One Belt One Road initiative.

In the new global reality that seems to be tilting towards protectionism and anti-globalization, China and Australia offer a flawless example of how free trade does not lead to tit-for-tat combat, but generates gains for both.

"We stand ready to work with other countries to support economic globalization and free trade, improve the global governance system and facilitate progress of mankind", Li said in the article.

Australia is one of several countries trying to salvage the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by encouraging China and other Asian countries to join the trade pact after US President Donald Trump abandoned the accord.

Turnbull announced in Canberra that Australia would open a new consulate general next year in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province - it is expected to ease visa applications from Northeast China.

"Since coming into effect, the China-Australia free trade agreement (FTA) has yielded continuous dividends, as evidenced by the more than 50 percent year-on-year growth in Australian exports of milk powder, red wine and dietary supplements to China, which are among the most sought-after overseas products for Chinese consumers", he wrote.

China hopes Australia will continue to look beyond the countries' ideological differences and focus on bilateral business ties and other forms of cooperation, a senior Chinese official said Tuesday.

"This visit will highlight Australia's strong economic relationship with China and our mutual commitment to encouraging trade and investment in our region", said Turnbull said in a recent statement.

The original deal imposes tariffs on certain New Zealand products sold in China after limits are reached.

  • Leroy Wright