Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced his upcoming visit to China from November 4 to 7, where he will meet with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang. The visit aims to restore stability to relations between Australia and its largest trading partner.
This visit to Beijing and Shanghai marks a significant diplomatic step, being the first time, an Australian leader has visited China since 2016. The announcement follows a breakthrough on Saturday regarding disputes between the two nations, particularly the issue of wine tariffs that had severely impacted Australia's wine industry. China's Commerce Ministry has confirmed that both sides have reached a consensus to resolve the WTO wine dispute and a separate dispute concerning Australian duties on Chinese wind towers.
Mending relations with China has been a top priority for Prime Minister Albanese since he assumed office in 2022. He emphasized the importance of stabilizing the relationship with China, which had deteriorated over several years due to various disputes, including those involving telecoms firm Huawei, espionage concerns, and issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the upcoming visit, discussions between the leaders will cover areas of cooperation such as economic ties, climate change, and people-to-people connections, as stated by Albanese.
"I look forward to further engaging with President Xi and Premier Li in Australia's national interest," Albanese remarked.
In a press conference held in Canberra, the Prime Minister disclosed that Australia and China had reached an agreement on Saturday to progress toward resolving their World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute regarding wine. This development potentially paves the way for the resumption of Australian wine imports into China, valued at $800 million annually before the imposition of tariffs in 2021.
Albanese stated, "We have agreed on the issue of wine for there to be a review of China's position on wine tariffs to be conducted over the next months. We will suspend our action before the WTO, but we're very confident that this will result in once again Australian wine, a great product, being able to go to China free of the tariffs."
While Albanese did not specifically mention the duties on wind towers, it should be noted that Australia's Anti-Dumping Commission had recommended lifting anti-dumping measures on Chinese wind towers on October 16. No final decision on this matter has been made yet.
China's Commerce Ministry released a statement expressing their willingness to work with Australia, considering both nations as important trading partners. The ministry emphasized their commitment to dialogue and consultation to promote the stable and healthy development of bilateral economic and trade relations.
These announcements mark the latest steps in a diplomatic thaw between China and Australia. Prior to this, China had eased restrictions on imports of Australian coal, timber, and barley, actions that had been taken in response to Australia's call for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.
The imposition of tariffs, reaching up to 218%, on most Australian wines had occurred in March 2021, leading to a significant decline in trade and affecting Australia's wine industry, which had previously enjoyed China as its most valuable export market.