Chinese premier wants to extend free trade with Australia

Andrew Cummings
April 2, 2017

PREMIER Li Keqiang yesterday warned against protectionism, saying China planned to close its US$50 billion a year deficit with Australia by expanding their trading relationship rather than retreating from it.

"There will definitely be opportunities for this and further cooperation in [the] future", the source added, citing a big OBOR summit to be held in May in Beijing or later in the year when Australia and China mark 45 years of diplomatic relations.

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang told reporters Tuesday there are "many opportunities and space for cooperation" between China and Australia for One Belt, One Road, a subject he said Li would bring up on his Australia visit.

He said that the relationship "will keep moving forward and forward and forward".

Emerging from talks with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and asked about militarisation in the South China Sea, Mr Li said China is only interested in maintaining freedom of movement.

Mr Turnbull said Australia hoped all parties resolved their differences peacefully and in accordance with global law.

Promoting global free trade will lead to higher employment and economic growth, Turnbull said.

Turnbull's eagerness to do business with Beijing comes amid concerns about a diminished American role in trade liberalization in the region following President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the USA from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

China State Construction Engineering Corp.

While stressing that "no one pretends we have shared values with China", Mr FitzGerald says that Mr Trump's values are "an affront to ours and should be called out for what they are".

As well as pulling the USA out of that pact, Trump - who campaigned on an "America First" platform - has said he will renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, right, welcomed Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China Li Keqiang to Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday.

While much of the Premier's five day visit is focused on trade, the two leaders will take a break on Saturday to attend an Australian Rules football game in Sydney, before the Premier leaves for New Zealand on Sunday.

"We have a staunch, strong ally in Washington - a good friend in Washington - and we have a very good friend in Beijing", Turnbull said. Both Australia and the USA are concerned about freedom of navigation in important trade shipping routes.

However, it may have little scope to increase exports as its cattle herd is near a two-decade low.

The agreement to expand imports of Australian beef accords with China's strategy of diversifying suppliers to guard against unforeseeable interruptions, as with the scandal involving Brazilian meat.

China must feed 20 percent of the world's population, but has only seven per cent of the world's arable land.

"Our high-quality clean, green agricultural produce supports China's food security", he said.

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