Premier Li’s five-day official visit, the first to the Oceanian country by a Chinese premier in 11 years, has produced substantial outcomes in a wide range of areas, and proved to be a timely and fruitful visit.
A TIMELY, IMPORTANT VISIT
Premier Li’s visit was wrapped up on March 26. The trip, described by Australian media as “an economic charm offensive,” came at a time when protectionism is on the rise especially in some major developed economies, which is a grave concern for Australia, a long-term beneficiary of free trade.
Christine Holgate, CEO of Australian vitamin maker Blackmores, told Xinhua that she was worried about the anti-globalization trend around the world.
However, Holgate felt “inspired” by Premier Li’s remarks about free trade and China-Australia economic ties.
“First, I have come for free trade. The world is seeing a rising tide of trade protectionism and growing backlash against globalization,” Premier Li said at a luncheon hosted by his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull on March 23.
“We are ready to enhance relevant cooperation with Australia and demonstrate to the region and the world our determination to uphold trade liberalization and economic globalization,” Premier Li added.
The reassuring note struck by the Premier about China’s commitment to free trade is cheering news to Australian businesses.
China has been Australia’s largest trading partner for the past eight years. It is a loyal buyer of Australian goods, from iron ore to red wine. China exports clothing, telecom equipment and parts to Australia.
The trade structure has put China in a trade deficit with Australia for years. Last year, trade between the two countries reached $107.8 billion, with China seeing a deficit of more than $30 billion.
“We ran a trade deficit of tens of billions of US dollars against Australia last year. Of course, we don’t like trade imbalances. Yet, we believe the solution to trade imbalances lies in further expanding our trade, rather than closing our doors,” Premier Li said at the luncheon.
Jennifer Westacott, CEO of Business Council of Australia, was at the luncheon, describing Premier Li’s visit as “timely” and “important.”
“The two countries have reaffirmed the importance of free trade and open market, and the importance of not retreating into isolationism,” Westacott told Xinhua.
When attending the China-Australia Economy and Trade Cooperation Forum on March 24, Premier Li and Turnbull agreed to promote trade facilitation and liberalization.
China is ready to work with Australia to further open markets to each other in the spirit of fair trade, said Premier Li at the forum.
Turnbull said that protectionism is “not a ladder to get out of the low-growth trap,” but “a shovel to dig it deeper.”
“We stand ready to work with other countries to support economic globalization and free trade, improve the global governance system and facilitate progress of mankind,” Premier Li said upon his arrival in an article published on March 22 by The Australian, a local leading newspaper.
According to the outcome list of Premier Li’ s visit to Australia, the two countries agreed to shared commitment to an open world economy, and continued commitment to advancing global and regional trade and investment liberalization through the WTO, APEC and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
A FRUITFUL, INFLUENTIAL VISIT
This year marks the 45th anniversary of China’s diplomatic ties with Australia.
Premier Li’s visit to Australia has enhanced not only global confidence in trade facilitation and liberalization, but also business opportunities for both sides amid closer China-Australia ties.
“We are not a self-sufficient country, and a booming economic relationship with China is vital for us. If we lose that, moms and dads will lose their jobs, and factories will collapse,” said Holgate, the Blackmores CEO.
Blackmores saw its business in China surge from almost zero five years ago to a volume accounting for 40 percent of its total business in 2016. Holgate attributed the growth to booming economic ties between the two countries and expected an even stronger growth following Premier Li’ s visit.
To further bilateral economic ties and bring about more benefits to the two peoples, the two sides agreed to continue to implement the China-Australia FTA and work hard to usher in a new era of FTA-driven boom, according to the outcome list.
The two sides will also enhance synergy between China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Vision for Developing North Australia, and between their innovation strategies.
Cooperation in energy, resources, infrastructure, agriculture, animal husbandry, and scientific and technological innovation would also be expanded after the visit, said the list.
The two sides also agreed to enhance exchanges and cooperation in education, culture, tourism, security, law enforcement, anti-corruption and defense as well as at subnational levels, step up communication and coordination at the UN, G20, APEC, East Asia Summit and other multilateral institutions, and jointly promote world peace, stability and prosperity.
While announcing the establishment of the China-Australia Ministerial Dialogue on Energy, the two countries agreed to establish the China-Australia Innovation Dialogue and the China-Australia High-level Security Dialogue.
In the agricultural area, the two sides signed the Plan of Action (2017-2019) on Implementing Agricultural Cooperation Projects Between the Ministry of Agriculture of China and the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
On science and technology cooperation, the two countries agreed to continue the collaboration under the China-Australia Science and Research Fund in prioritized areas of advanced manufacturing, medical technology and pharmaceuticals, and resources and energy, with a budget of up to $6 million dollars from each side.
After his Australian trip, the Premier will pay an official visit to New Zealand starting on March. This year also marks the 45th anniversary of China’s diplomatic ties with New Zealand.