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Premier's visit boosts Beijing-Canberra ties

By Daryl Guppy | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-06-25 09:08
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Chinese Premier Li Qiang's recent visit to Australia was outstanding and unexpectedly successful. The outcomes signal a new phase in Sino-Australian relationship on the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries. The visit gives the relationship new momentum at a time when many observers expected only a continuation of stabilization in relations.

Premier Li identified areas of cooperation in existing trade relationships, and both sides reaffirmed their commitment to supporting global trading rules of the World Trade Organization. This built upon previous cooperation where the two countries developed an alternative dispute resolution process in the face of the United States' continued refusal to confirm the appointment of new appellate judges.

Unexpectedly for Australian observers, China extended the hand of friendship by confirming 15-day single-entry visa-free travel for Australian visitors on a non-reciprocal basis. Visa-free travel dramatically improves people-to-people contact and facilitates the faster development of business relationships and economic growth. This significant gesture is greatly appreciated by tourists and business travelers alike.

The change in visa policy is a significant outcome of the visit because visa-free travel is fundamental to improving people-to-people links and exchanges at all levels. It is also an indication that the relationship is moving beyond mere stabilization and is gathering new momentum.

Other achievements of the Canberra meetings include additional discussions on free trade, expansion of the annual high-level economic dialogue and commitment to collaboration and exchanges in the fields of art and culture. These are important steps toward restoring cooperative momentum in what have been traditional areas of trade and tourism.

China and Australia confirmed plans to resume the strategic economic dialogue in 2024. The dialogue is significant because it enables discussion of high-level economic issues by governments and businesses. This builds on the diplomatic successes of the two sides.

China has continued to witness economic rebound with new growth drivers gaining momentum. The new agreements on cooperation in the areas of climate change, education and research take the relationship to a higher level.

Climate change cooperation focuses on tackling a range of challenges in the fields of research, supply chains and resource offtake agreements. These issues were pursued during the 7th China-Australia CEO Roundtable Meeting in Perth, Western Australia.

The positive message that emerged from the meeting was the successful exchange of viewpoints on a number of issues with a commitment to further discussion. Australian businesses are excited by China's economic growth outlook, particularly in the new economy areas of green energy and digital development.

Australia continues to seek Chinese investment in selected areas. Premier Li indicated that China is interested in further investment in resource development and other areas, but it wants to be treated fairly in a way that is consistent with the treatment of investment from other countries.

It is clear that tax incentives for processing strategic minerals in Australia will remain off-limits for Chinese companies even though they established the lithium industry in Australia and Australia relies on Chinese expertise to develop the new processing facilities.

This was perhaps the most major issue that remained unresolved and will require more discussion. Businesses were satisfied that their concerns were noted by both Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Premier Li.

Prior to Li's arrival in Australia, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lin Jian said the objective is to "enhance understanding and mutual trust, deepen pragmatic cooperation and jointly build a more mature, stable and fruitful China-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership".

Premier Li's visit achieved those objectives, providing the momentum to move the Australia-China relationship in new directions beyond stabilization to participate in China's economic rebound.

The author is an international financial technical analysis expert and a former national board member of the Australia China Business Council.

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