Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese yesterday said he raised with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) his concerns about trade “blockages,” but did not walk away from their first face-to-face talks with any promises that the US$13 billion barriers to Australian exports would be lifted.
The Australian government described the talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia as the first formal bilateral meeting between the two nations’ leaders since 2016, when Xi met then-Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.
Bilateral relations plummeted since then over issues including Australia’s ban on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co’s (華為) involvement in 5G networks, calls for an independent inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic and new laws banning covert international interference in Australian politics.
Since the center-left Labor Party came to power in May after nine years of conservative rule, Albanese has been calling for China to lift a series of official and unofficial barriers to Australian exports, including beef, wine, seafood, wood and coal that cost US$13 billion a year.
Albanese described his 30-minute meeting with Xi as “successful,” “positive,” “warm” and “constructive.”
“I put forward Australia’s position when it comes to the blockages in our trading relationship,” Albanese told reporters in Bali, Indonesia.
“It was a positive discussion. We put forward our position. It was not anticipated that a meeting such as that you get immediate declarations. I believe if people thought that would happen, then that was not realistic,” Albanese added.
Xi told Albanese in his opening remarks at the meeting that bilateral relations had “encountered some difficulties” in recent years.
“We should improve, maintain and develop the relations between the two countries, which is in the fundamental interests of the two peoples and conducive to promoting the development of peace in the Asia-Pacific region and the world,” Xi said.
Xi said that Albanese had repeated since becoming prime minister that “China-Australia relations will be handled in a mature way.”
“I attach great importance to your opinion,” Xi said.
Albanese said the two leaders also discussed Taiwan, human rights in China’s Xinjang region, the detention of Chinese-born Australian journalist Cheng Lei (成蕾) and writer Yang Hengjun (楊恒均), and Australia’s desire for Beijing to use its influence on Russia to prevent the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Australia’s deal with the US and the UK announced last year to create an Australian submarine fleet powered with US nuclear technology was not raised, he said.
He added that both leaders agreed that dialogue between their governments would continue.
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