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China Premier Li’s trip to Australia is an ‘important’ show of stabilised ties, minister says

By Thomson Reuters Jun 15, 2024 | 7:20 PM

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Sunday that China Premier Li Qiang’s visit to Australia was “really important” in showing stabilised ties between the two countries, after Li, China’s second-highest ranked official, arrived in Adelaide on Saturday.

Li touched down in the South Australia state capital late on Saturday, saying bilateral relations were “back on track” as he started a four-day visit to Australia, the first trip by a Chinese premier to the major trading partner in seven years.

China imposed trade restrictions on a raft of Australian agricultural and mineral products in 2020 during a diplomatic dispute that has now largely eased.

“This is obviously a really important visit, it’s the first visit in seven years by the Chinese premier,” Wong told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television on Sunday morning.

“It comes after two years of very deliberate, very patient work by this government to bring about a stabilisation of the relationship.”

In Adelaide on Sunday, Li is expected to visit a pair of pandas on loan from China to Adelaide’s zoo, then have lunch with wine exporters until recently shut out of the Chinese market in a dispute that suspended A$20 billion ($13 billion) in Australian agriculture and mineral exports last year.

Li will also visit the capital Canberra and iron-ore rich mining state Western Australia on the stopover.

Australia is the biggest supplier of iron ore to China, which has been an investor in Australian mining projects, though some recent Chinese investment in critical minerals has been blocked by Australia on national interest grounds.

Li arrived from New Zealand, where he highlighted Chinese demand for New Zealand’s agricultural products.

China is the biggest trading partner of Australia and New Zealand. Canberra and Wellington are seeking to balance trade with regional security concerns over China’s ambitions in the Pacific Islands.

(Reporting by Sam McKeith in Sydney)