Australia’s prime minister will visit China in early November to meet President Xi Jinping, Canberra confirmed on Sunday, as the two trading partners work to repair a once-frosty relationship.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese scheduled the trip – from November 4 to 7 – after China agreed to suspend a festering World Trade Organization dispute fueled by high tariffs on Australian wine.
It also follows the release of Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who was deported from China earlier this month after serving three years on espionage charges widely seen as politically motivated.
“I look forward to visiting China, an important step toward ensuring a stable and productive relationship,” Albanese said in a statement.
“I am pleased with the progress we have made in bringing Australian products, including Australian wine, back to the Chinese market.”
The highly anticipated trip would be the first to China by an Australian prime minister since 2016.
China imposed tariffs on key Australian exports such as barley, beef and wine in 2020, flexing its economic muscle at the height of a bitter dispute with Australia’s former conservative government.
It also halted imports of some of Australia’s key raw materials, including coal, cutting trade by billions of dollars.
China was angered by Australian laws banning Huawei from 5G contracts and calls for an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many of these trade barriers have been slowly removed after Australia’s centre-left government – elected in May last year – took a less confrontational approach.
This year, China cut tariffs on Australian barley, ended an import ban on Australian timber and agreed to resume receiving Australian coal.
Over the next five months, China will conduct an “accelerated review” of its tariffs on Australian wine, Albanese said.
Australia has threatened to resume complaints to the World Trade Organization if “duties are not abolished at the end of the review,” he added.
Progress has also been made on the diplomatic front, with China earlier this month agreeing to release Australian journalist Cheng, a former presenter for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN.
The Australian government had long campaigned for her release, calling on China to follow “basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment”.
Recent economic data released by Beijing suggests the country’s post-Covid recovery is running out of steam and growth is slowing, increasing pressure on the terms of China’s external trade relations.
The easing of tensions with Canberra comes as Chinese President Xi has taken a more pragmatic diplomatic approach with international partners.
Xi had called for “improvement” in relations with Australia during a meeting with Albanians in November 2022 on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia.
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