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Golden chance for Australia to deepen trade ties

By Liu Chang | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-25 06:49

Golden chance for Australia to deepen trade ties

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, speak at joint press conference after their annual talks in Canberra in Australia on March 24, 2017. [Photo/provided to chinadaily.com.cn] 

The Asia-Pacific region is facing a host of unprecedented economic and security challenges which, ironically, also provide an opportunity for China and Australia to build a stronger partnership.

Premier Li Keqiang is on a visit to Australia at a time when the world's most economically vibrant region is encountering continuous economic uncertainties, and the rising trend of protectionism and anti-globalization.

In recent years, China and Australia have maintained strong economic ties and reaped the benefits of flourishing bilateral trade and investment. China has remained Australia's largest trading partner for the past eight years, with the bilateral trade volume last year reaching $108 billion, according to China's Foreign Ministry. After the Beijing-Canberra free trade agreement came into force in December 2015, Australia's exports of health and dairy products as well as wine to China have seen a sharp rise.

China, on its part, has been trying to broaden the focus of its investment, creating more business opportunities for Australian enterprises and bringing benefits to the local people. A recent study by the global consulting firm KPMG showed Chinese investment, which earlier flowed mainly into Australia's mining industry, is now spread across sectors such as real estate, renewable energy, healthcare and agriculture.

However, amid rising Chinese investment into the country, the Australian government has set up the Critical Infrastructure Center to "protect" its sensitive assets and rejected a number of acquisition bids by Chinese companies on the grounds of national security. Although Canberra has the right to carefully vet foreign investments that could flow into its sensitive infrastructure sectors, blocking foreign financing over unfounded concerns would be both a mistake and loss for Australia.

Deeper China-Australia economic and trade cooperation goes beyond bilateral relations. Earlier this month, China sent its representatives to Chile's seaside resort of Vina del Mar to attend a two-day meeting on economic integration in the Asia-Pacific, which was also attended by representatives from 15 Pacific-rim countries. By participating in the conference, China showed that it is open to any multilateral trade pacts so long as they honor the spirit of free trade, give all parties equal say to write the rules, and ensure trade benefits can be shared by all the participants.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is also an ardent advocate of a robust free trade system and greater economic integration in the Asia-Pacific. And during his visit to Australia, Premier Li joined Turnbull in exploring more possibilities to further realize the potential of bilateral economic exchanges.

The two economies also share vital interests in jointly taking the lead to revive the world's wilting confidence in free trade and economic globalization. And pushing forward negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific is the most effective means to achieve that end.

Besides, China and Australia also have huge stakes in maintaining regional peace and stability, and in combating non-conventional threats such as climate change and terrorism.

The author is a writer with Xinhua News Agency.

(China Daily 03/25/2017 page5)

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