|Chinese Premiere Li Keqiang, shown above, is visiting Australia to boost China-Australia ties. (AFP/Etienne Oliveau)|
BEIJING - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's five-day official visit to Australia starting Wednesday is expected to boost the development of China-Australia relations and cooperation, and push forward free trade and regional integration. It will be Li's first visit to Australia as Chinese premier. After his trip, he will visit New Zealand.
Li is expected to seek cooperation with Australia, in accordance with China's updated economic outlook and blueprint from the just concluded "two sessions", the annual gatherings of National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Australia has been an important economic and trade partner of China. China has ranked top among Australia's trade partners as its largest exporter, source of imports and investments.
The two sides have seen deepening economic and trade ties as a result of a free trade deal since December 2015.
Liu Qing, head of the Asia-Pacific department at the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), believes the Chinese Premier's visit will bring more opportunities to China-Australia cooperation.
"The two countries have highly complementary economies and development strategies," said Liu, who expects to see an alliance between the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and Australia's ambitious development plan for its north.
Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said recently Australian businesses have a keen interest and they would want to be part of the One Belt, One Road initiative.
China and Australia share extensive consensuses on and appeals for the enhancement of free trade and globalization amid worldwide uncertainties, including a sluggish economic recovery and a surge in protectionism in some Western countries.
This is especially so after the United States withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks in January, dealing a blow to free trade and a great disappointment to Australia and some other countries in the region.
Li's visit to Australia is going to convey a positive message to the world, that is, China and Australia will jointly safeguard the results of free trade, tackle protectionist challenges, and push forward regional integration and globalization, said Ruan Zongze, vice president of the CIIS.
China has made it clear it will remain an advocate for globalization and free trade, and is willing to work together with other countries to improve global economic governance.
Ruan attributed Australia's growth for 26 years in a row partly to its close economic and trade ties with China.
Particularly, he added, after the two countries reached a bilateral free trade deal, convenience in trade and investment between the two countries has generated more business opportunities for their businesses and brought tangible benefits to the two peoples.
Cooperation between China and Australia, both advocates and driving forces for free trade in the Asia-Pacific, is expected to inject fresh energy into not only globalization, but also regional integration.
During Li's stay in Australia, China and Australia are also expected to reach agreements on a series of regional issues.
Both countries are members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, of the East Asia Summit and of the Group of 20 major economies. They are also parties to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations.
Wang Zhenyu, CIIS associate research fellow, suggested that both countries make use of the existing mechanisms to increase dialogues and coordination, enhance connectivity in the Asia-Pacific and promote comprehensive cooperation in various fields through economic and trade cooperation with a goal of lifting regional integration to a new height.
China and Australia have the same aims in safeguarding regional security and stability, Wang added, saying both countries will continuously explore new spaces for cooperation in dealing with climate change, poverty relief and reduction, technical assistance, people-to-people exchanges and combating terrorism, among others, and play a constructive role in tackling regional issues.