News National Chinese Premier Li Keqiang extends olive branch at East Asia summit

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang extends olive branch at East Asia summit

Prime Minister Scott Morrison chats to China Premier Li Keqiang before the East Asia Summit in Bangkok on Sunday. Photo: AAP
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Australia and China have committed to improving their strained relationship, as the two nations prepare to engage in trade talks at an international summit in Thailand.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison sat down with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit soon after touching down in Bangkok on Sunday night.

Premier Li offered to help get the China-Australia relationship “on the right track” during their bilateral meeting.

“We are ready to work with the Australian side to keep our relationship on the right track, deepen our mutual trust, and jointly maintain regional and global peace,” he told Mr Morrison.

“We are ready to work with Australia to fully unlock the potential of our relations and expand our business ties and people-to-people exchange.

“This is to the benefit of both sides. We hope our relations will move in the direction of steady and sound growth.”

Sino-Australian relations have been under significant stress for many months.

Beijing’s human rights abuses, attempts at foreign interference, and detention of Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun have each proven flash points.

Even still, Mr Morrison insists Australia’s “greatly appreciates” its relationship with China, its No.1 trading partner.

“This is an opportunity, among others, to talk about that relationship,” he told Premier Li.

“Like you, I feel very strongly and am committed to improving that relationship and ensuring we realise its full potential.

On Monday, the prime minister will shift his focus from Chinese tensions to free trade.

He is determined to push negotiations forward on a potential EU-style Asian trade pact, which could become the biggest of its kind in the world.

The deal, once finalised, is set to include all 10 ASEAN nations as well as China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

The trading bloc would encompass 30 per cent of global gross domestic product and nearly half the world’s population.

Against a backdrop of tensions between the United States and China, leaders are increasingly restless to have the deal locked in.

However, it is extremely unlikely the deal will be sealed on Monday, with India’s resistance to removing agricultural tariffs proving a sticking point.

Against a backdrop of China’s rising influence in the Indo-Pacific, Australia has repeatedly urged the US to play a greater role in the region.


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