Australia’s Albanese to Visit China This Year After Li Talks

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(Bloomberg) -- Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will visit Beijing to meet with the Chinese government’s senior leadership before the end of 2023, in the latest sign of warming relations between the two nations.

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Albanese confirmed the trip would take place this year after meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang on the sidelines of the Asean summit on Thursday in Jakarta. The Australian leader described his discussions with Li as “frank and constructive.”

China welcomed Albanese’s upcoming visit and “stands ready to make full preparations for this visit together with Australia,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Mao Ning said.

While Albanese didn’t reveal a date, he did say it would commemorate the November 1973 state visit by then-Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, the first trip to China by an Australian leader. That suggests similar timing.

The Australian leader initially intended to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Group of 20 Summit in India later this week. However, with Xi no longer attending that gathering, Albanese instead met with China’s second-in-command on Thursday morning.

Ties between Australia and China have been steadily improving since the election of the center-left Labor government in May 2022. This includes the resumption of senior ministerial meetings and the relaxation of a number of trade sanctions imposed by Beijing at the height of tensions in 2020.

Albanese said he and Li talked about the remaining tariffs on Australian wine exports to China, as well as consular cases and human rights. “We discussed and shared perspectives on regional and international security issues,” he said.

Li told Albanese that China was willing to work with Australia to safeguard peace and stability in the region, according to state-run news agency Xinhua, and noted that there was positive momentum in diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The meeting in Jakarta took place as Australia and China held their first High-Level Dialogue in three years in Beijing, led by former Trade Minister Craig Emerson and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Li Zhaoxing.

--With assistance from Lucille Liu.

(Updates with China’s MOFA comments in third paragraph.)

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