News National Turnbull urged to boost ties with China: report
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Turnbull urged to boost ties with China: report

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Photo: AAP
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Turbo-charging Australia’s investment ties with China is the focus of a landmark study being handed to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday, suggesting a level of partnership beyond the current free-trade agreement between the two nations.

It recommends the governments of both countries elevate their current Comprehensive Strategic Partners status to a new and unique phase by formally making it a partnership for change.

With Australia’s economy shifting away from a reliance on resource exports, and China’s economic growth reshaping, an opportunity exists for improved diplomatic ties if both countries pursue reforms in the bilateral relationship.

The study also calls for a high-level policy cooperation on the maritime economy and seaborne supply routes; the creation of a new Australia-China Commission similar to the Australian-American Fulbright Commission; and negotiations to help liberalise investment flows.

It comes just days after the Turnbull Government controversially moved to block the NSW Government sale of electricity distributor Ausgrid to a Chinese Government-owned corporation.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said he had made that decision based on the Australian national interest and out of concern for national security.

China's economy is set for a "reshaping" Photo: AAP.
China’s economy is set for a “reshaping.” Photo: AAP.

The Australian National University report is the first major independent study into the Australia-China relationship, which has the support of both Beijing and Canberra and was jointly conducted with the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges.

Titled the Australia-China Joint Economic Report, the study says a change in attitude and policy could have a dramatic benefit to both countries.

This would manifest in increased trade and a shared interest in the institutions of global governance and 21st-century economic and security challenges.

Creating a new unique diplomatic framework for the Australia-China relationship, it says, will send important high-level signals to policy and business actors on both sides.

Co-author of the report, ANU Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale, said while Australia and China already enjoyed a close relationship, and opportunity existed to significantly boost it over the coming decades.

“Australia has been a trusted partner in China’s ‘reform and opening’ since the 1980s, and is seen in China as a valuable international testing ground and pilot zone for economic policy reform,” he said.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner with bilateral trade worth more than A$150 billion in 2015, while Australia is China’s seventh largest source of imports and 13th biggest export market.

The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) entered into force in late 2015.

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