Antony Albanese’s trip would be the first by an Australian prime minister to China since 2016 (File)

Canberra, Australia:

Canberra confirmed on Sunday that Australia’s prime minister will visit China in early November to meet President Xi Jinping as the two trading partners work to repair a once frosty relationship.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese secured the Nov. 4-7 trip after China agreed to suspend a simmering dispute with the World Trade Organization sparked by high tariffs on Australian wine.

It also follows the release of Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who was deported from China earlier this month after being jailed for three years on espionage charges widely seen as politically motivated.

“I look forward to a visit to China, an important step in ensuring a stable and productive relationship,” Albanese said in a statement.

“I welcome the progress we have made to bring Australian products, including Australian wine, back to the Chinese market.”

The highly anticipated trip would be the first by an Australian prime minister to China since 2016.

Tariff dispute

China imposed tariffs on key Australian exports such as barley, beef and wine in 2020, flexing its economic muscle at the height of a bitter dispute with Australia’s former conservative government.

It also halted imports of some of Australia’s most important raw materials, including coal, cutting off billions of dollars in trade.

China has been angered by Australian laws barring Huawei from 5G contracts and calls for an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many of these trade barriers were slowly dismantled after Australia’s center-left government, elected in May last year, took a less confrontational approach.

This year, China cut tariffs on Australian barley, lifted an import ban on Australian timber and agreed to resume receiving shipments of Australian coal.

Over the next five months, China will conduct an “accelerated review” of its tariffs on Australian wine, Albanese said.

Australia has threatened to reopen complaints at the World Trade Organization if “tariffs are not lifted at the end of the review,” he added.

Reduce tensions

There has also been progress at the diplomatic level: earlier this month, China agreed to the release of Australian journalist Cheng, a former presenter on Chinese state broadcaster CGTN.

The Australian government had long advocated for her release and called on China to adhere to “basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment.”

Recent economic data released by Beijing suggests that the country’s post-coronavirus recovery is losing momentum and growth is slowing, increasing pressure on the terms of China’s foreign trade relations.

The easing of tensions with Canberra comes as Chinese President Xi has taken a more pragmatic diplomatic approach with international partners.

Xi called for an “improvement” in relations with Australia at a meeting with Albanese in November 2022 on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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