Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called for the "full resumption of free and unimpeded trade" with China during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Li Qiang. This meeting marked the return of talks after a four-year hiatus and signaled an improvement in diplomatic relations. The joint statement issued following the meeting revealed that both countries agreed to resume their annual leaders meeting, which had been halted due to a sharp deterioration in their relations. This deterioration had seen China impose tariffs and other restrictions on imports from Australia, leading to significant economic losses for Australian exporters, particularly in industries like coal, wine, beef, barley, and lobsters.
Albanese, the first Australian leader to visit China in seven years, emphasized the importance of managing differences and growing the relationship while advancing their respective interests. Li, on the other hand, expressed China's willingness to strengthen dialogue and cooperation, emphasizing that cooperation should be the primary focus of their relationship. Both leaders discussed various areas of potential cooperation, including energy, mining, green development, the digital economy, scientific and technological innovation, and the health industry.
Tensions between Australia and China had escalated due to various factors, such as Australia's concerns over foreign interference, restrictions on Chinese telecom giant Huawei, and its call for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19. Additionally, the deepening security ties between Australia and the United States, including the AUKUS agreement, had strained relations. However, both leaders now appear committed to improving ties and finding common ground in areas like climate change, food security, and transnational crime. Albanese concluded his China visit before heading to the Cook Islands for a Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting to discuss climate change and other regional issues.