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Premier Li to enhance ties while in Australia and New Zealand

Hu Yongqi/Mo Jingxi
Updated: Mar 18,2017 7:23 AM     China Daily

Premier Li Keqiang will make official visits to Australia and New Zealand starting next week as a major effort to boost economic ties with the two Oceanian countries.

The visits will be the first such trips to the two countries by a Chinese premier since 2006.

At the invitation of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English, the Premier will visit the two countries from March 22 to March 29, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news conference on March 17.

In Australia, the Premier will also attend the fifth annual meeting of the Chinese and Australian prime ministers, Hua added.

China has maintained frequent high-level exchanges with these two important trading partners in Oceania, both of which enjoyed trade surpluses with China last year.

In April last year, Turnbull made his first visit to China since taking office, just one week before former New Zealand prime minister John Key’s sixth trip to Beijing. In September, Premier Li met with Turnbull when both leaders attended the East Asia Summit in Laos.

In 2008, New Zealand was the first developed economy to sign a free-trade agreement with China, while the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement took effect in December 2015.

In a previous interview, New Zealand Ambassador to China and Mongolia John McKinnon said he expected the two countries to upgrade their existing free trade agreement to boost bilateral trade.

Chen Fengying, a global economy researcher at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said Australia and New Zealand carry out the free trade agreements as China’s key trading partners in the Asia-Pacific region.

The two Oceanian countries can complement the Chinese economy, since they export dairy and woolen goods to meet China’s need for high-quality agricultural and animal husbandry products, Chen said.

“The trade and economic ties between China and Australia have become increasingly closer in recent years, which has positively contributed to a relationship featuring mutual benefits and win-win cooperation,” said Su Hao, a professor of Asia-Pacific studies at China Foreign Affairs University.

Han Feng, a researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China and Australia have great potential for aligning their industries and strategies.

“China could help to renovate Australia’s outdated infrastructure facilities with its leading expertise, while learning from the Oceanian country’s advanced technologies in transportation, telemedicine and distance education,” Han said.