China eyes new impetus in ties with Australia, New Zealand

Updated 2017-03-22 09:01:02 Xinhua

China hopes for new impetus for trade and investment cooperation and regional prosperity through the upcoming visit of Premier Li Keqiang to Australia and New Zealand. [Special coverage]

This visit will send a positive signal to the Asia-Pacific region and the whole world that the three countries are committed to trade and investment liberalization and regional peace, stability and prosperity, said Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang at a press briefing here on Tuesday.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of China-Australia and China-New Zealand relations. The official visit, scheduled from March 22 to 29, is the first by a Chinese premier since China upgraded its relations with the two to comprehensive strategic partnership.

“Australia is implementing a northern development plan while New Zealand has a 30-year infrastructure development plan. The premier's visit will promote coordination of China's Belt and Road initiative with the other plans,” said Liu Qing, a researcher on Asia-Pacific studies with the China Institute of International Studies.

During Li's stay in Australia, he will meet Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and hold the fifth annual talks with his Australian counterpart. The two prime ministers will also attend a trade cooperation forum together.

Li will also meet Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and parliamentary leaders.

The two sides will discuss the China-Australia free trade agreement, and cooperation in areas including technology, trade and investment, energy and resources, the judiciary and law enforcement, according to Zheng.

China has been Australia's largest trading partner in the past 8 years. The two countries have witnessed booming bilateral trade since the FTA took effect in December 2015. Since full implementation last year, bilateral trade has reached 108 billion U.S. dollars and bilateral investment was over 100 billion U.S. dollars, Zheng said.

“China, Australia and New Zealand are highly complementary in their economies,” said Chen Fengying, an expert on global economy with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

Trade cooperation is also on the agenda in New Zealand. Li will hold talks with Prime Minister Bill English and meet Governor General Patsy Reddy and other officials.

The two sides will expand cooperation in such areas as infrastructure, agriculture and husbandry, technological innovation, education, culture, tourism and civil aviation, Zheng said.

Bilateral trade between China and New Zealand has increased nearly threefold compared with 2008, when the two countries reached a free trade agreement. The first round of negotiations on upgrading the FTA will be held in the first half of this year.

The upgrading will bring more opportunities for bilateral economic cooperation, and promote the two sides to increase market openness and reach consensus on areas such as services trade and e-commerce, Zheng said.

Besides trade cooperation, people-to-people exchanges and tourism cooperation will also be on the agenda.

This year marks the China-Australia Year of Tourism. There are already over 100 pairs of sister states, provinces and cities between the two countries.

Li and Turnbull will attend a forum with officials from localities. The two sides will expand cooperation in education, culture, tourism and localities, and sign some cooperation deals, Zheng said.

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