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Friday, April 15, 2016, 09:41

Trade boost eyed with Australia

By An Baijie in Beijing and Wang Hui in Hong Kong

Li calls on Beijing and Canberra to make full use of advantages shared by both nations

Trade boost eyed with Australia
Premier Li Keqiang talks with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as they attend a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday. (Wu Zhiyi / China Daily)
Beijing and Canberra are seeking to increase business ties as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull leads his country's largest-ever trade mission to China.

Australia will also grant 10-year visas for the first time to Chinese and allow online applications, according to Turnbull, who started a two-day visit to China on Thursday.

China is Australia's most important tourism market, with more than 1 million visitors last year.

Witnessed by Premier Li Keqiang and Turnbull, the two countries signed five documents on Thursday to boost cooperation in areas including tourism, science, industrial parks and mining.

Li called on both countries to make full use of their complementary advantages and work together in multiple sectors including infrastructure construction, equipment manufacturing, new energy, cross-border e-commerce, education, law enforcement and defense.

"Enhanced China-Australia cooperation will send a positive signal to the region and the world, especially at a time when the global economy is sluggish with increasing uncertainties," Li said.

It is Turnbull's first visit to China since taking office in September. Representatives of more than 1,000 companies are attending events at Australia Week in China, which begins on Monday in 12 cities.

Turnbull said Australia considers China an important trade partner and is positive about the great potential for China's development.

He said he was honored to be the first Australian prime minister to visit China since the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement took effect, adding that the two countries should enhance cooperation in e-commerce, agriculture and technology.

The visit comes four months after the free trade agreement went into effect. Under the agreement, more than 86 percent of Australian exports can enter China duty-free, with the proportion rising to 94 percent in 2019 and 96 percent in 2029.

"The engagement gets stronger all the time," Turnbull said. "We have a lot of good work to do together."

Turnbull made no mention of concerns over the South China Sea issue in his speech in Shanghai on Thursday, according to The Associated Press. Last month, he described China's military deployments in the South China Sea as "counterproductive".

Hans Hendrischke, a professor of Chinese business and management at the University of Sydney, said the two countries will discuss the diversification of economic ties during the visit.

He said the bilateral relationship is moving from one focused on bulk goods and commodities to a much closer interaction across a range of industries - services, agriculture and others.

"It will mean closer government business interaction on both sides," he said.

Steven Ciobo, Australian minister for trade and investment, said the business delegation will promote "the best we have to offer in cities across the country" during Australia Week in China.

"We are committed to such a large showing because China will remain our largest export market for the foreseeable future," Ciobo said in an article for News Corp.

Ni Yueju, a researcher of world economic studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that sending its largest-ever business delegation shows that Australia attaches great importance to the Chinese market.

She said both countries have agreed to enhance trade and economic cooperation after experiencing a fall in trade volume last year amid the sluggish world economy.

China's retailers, wholesalers, service providers - including training schools and tourism agencies - are also forming relations with Australian associations, local governments and enterprises.

For example, Australia's premium brand Nova Spring Water and Chinese chain retailer T3C signed a memorandum of understanding to coincide with Australia Week in China.

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