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What Premier Li’s Australia trip means for business

Consolidating a strong and mature relationship, that’s what Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Australia is about, according to Australia’s ambassador to China, Jan Adams — who spoke exclusively to CGTN ahead of traveling with Premier Li on what will be his first overseas trip in 2017.

It’s been 15 months since the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was implemented. The ambassador, who is a trade veteran and helped negotiate the deal, says the results have been excellent.

Adams said Australia was delighted to see a lot of businesses taking up the opportunities that have arisen under the agreement. Since China is Australia’s largest source of imports, Australia has been enjoying more and more Chinese products.

Even as Australian agricultural exports have soared (more than 50 percent since the FTA came into place), there is room to reduce non-tariff barriers. Expectations are that more Australian beef exporters will be licensed to sell to China — opportune timing as China this week banned Brazilian beef due to a scandal over rotten meat being sold.

On the investment front, Chinese investment in Australia has been soaring, jumping 56 percent in 2016. But in contrast, Australian investment in China is a fraction of its investments in other countries, such as the US and New Zealand.

Technology cooperation in the form of joint research centers could be another highlight of Premier Li’s visit, according to China’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Zheng Zeguang, who also talked about expanding cooperation in cross-border e-commerce.

While the Belt and Road Initiative will be the subject of talks during Premier Li’s trip, there will not be a formal deal signed.

‍Recognizing growing uncertainty as part of the global context, Premier Li wrote an exclusive ­opinion piece in The Australian on March 22, warning against protectionism: “Self-isolation will never lead one to the land of happiness. A trade war will not make trade fairer. Protectionism offers no genuine protection.”

This comes days after G20 finance ministers dropped an anti-protectionist commitment due to opposition from the Trump ­administration.

After Premier Li’s visit, Ambassador Adams is set to meet with other Australian diplomats to work out Australia’s new Foreign Policy White Paper. She affirmed that Australia can balance its political alliance with the US and its trade reliance on China.