China’s Premier to Visit Australia and New Zealand for Trade Talks
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will visit Australia and New Zealand later this month. The weeklong visit that will focus mainly on trade and investment deals is the second high profile visit by a Chinese official since President Xi Jingping's visit to both countries in 2014.
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Li would commence his visit between 22 March and 29 March, which would include halt at Canberra, Sydney and Auckland. The Chinese premier's trade visit to Australia and New Zealand comes during President Donald Trump's on-going trade protectionist campaign that led the U.S. withdrawal from the 12 nations Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).
Li will meet his counterparts Bill English and Malcom Turnbull during the visit to discuss host of trade related issues. Australia and New Zealand are expected to urge China's premier to open up the lucrative Chinese market for their companies and exporters.
It is not clear whether the sensitive issue of South China Sea will be discussed during the visit. Over the years both the Trans Pacific countries have tilted to the U.S. over the issue of disputed maritime territory.
Canberra had to especially work hard to maintain a strategic balance between the U.S. and China, with latter being its largest trading partner. Canberra's frequent outburst against China's sovereign claim over the disputed South China Sea region has often led to strain in both country's bilateral relationship.
Last week, Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop faced Chinese media's ire for her criticisms against China's democratic practices. Bishop lamented over the fact that China continues to follow an undemocratic system while addressing a conference in Singapore.
There is apparently a growing debate among Australian lawmakers on how to deal with China in the wake of its economic rise. Last year, the former Prime Minister Paul Keating described Canberra's current foreign policy as "simply incapable" of coping with China's economic and diplomatic clout.