China ‘ready to work’ with Australia

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has offered to work with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to get the strained relationship between China and Australia “on the right track”.

Despite various tensions between the two nations, Premier Li said they shared “extensive common interests” on economic and trade issues.

Premier Li said there was a “solid foundation” and “strong potential” for cooperation with Australia “in the face of downward economic pressure and a complex international situation.” “We are ready to work with the Australian side to keep our relationship on the right track, deepen our mutual trust, and jointly maintain regional and global peace,” he told Mr Morrison in Bangkok on Sunday.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) shakes hands with Premier of the People's Republic of China Li Keqiang during a bilateral meeting ahead of the ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch
media_cameraAustralian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) shakes hands with Premier of the People’s Republic of China Li Keqiang during a bilateral meeting ahead of the ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch

“We are ready to work with Australia to fully unlock the potential of our relations and expand our business ties and people-to-people exchange. “This is to the benefit of both sides. We hope our relations will move in the direction of steady and sound growth.”

Mr Morrison insists Australia’s “greatly appreciates” its relationship with China, it’s number one trading partner.

“This is an opportunity, among others, to talk about that relationship,” he told Premier Li.

“Like you, I feel very strongly and am committed to improving that relationship and ensuring we realise its full potential.”

Tensions between Australia and China have been heavily strained for many months, with senior government calling Beijing out for human rights abuses and attempts at foreign interference.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is welcomed as he arrives in Bangkok ahead of the ASEAN East Asia Summit in Bangkok, Thailand. Picture: PMO/Adam Taylor
media_cameraAustralian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is welcomed as he arrives in Bangkok ahead of the ASEAN East Asia Summit in Bangkok, Thailand. Picture: PMO/Adam Taylor

Trade and tense talks for PM in Thailand

Scott Morrison will fly head-on into tense talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a tight trip to Thailand.

Australia’s prime minister will also try to turbo-charge negotiations on an Asian trade pact during his overnight visit to Bangkok.

Mr Morrison arrived on Sunday to attend the East Asia Summit. The event brings together 18 regional leaders each year to discuss economic and security issues.

Sunday’s meeting comes just days after China scolded Australia’s foreign minister for daring to suggest Beijing should be called out over human rights abuses.

There has been friction between Australia and its largest trading partner, but Mr Morrison has sought to define the relationship by what the two nations have in common, rather than their differences.

The prime minister hoped to finalise a complex free trade agreement during his trip but senior officials no longer expect the deal to be wrapped up. Instead, leaders of the 16 countries involved are likely to report on a “path to conclusion”.

The EU-style Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership would include all 10 ASEAN nations as well as Japan, China, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

The trading bloc would encompass 30 per cent of global gross domestic product and nearly half the world’s population.

The deal was due to be hammered out by Christmas following seven years of negotiations, but India’s resistance to removing agricultural tariffs has proven a sticking point.

Negotiations have ramped up in recent months as pressure mounts to seal the deal as the US-China trade war drags on.

With the APEC summit in Chile abruptly cancelled following weeks of violent unrest, the prime minister will attempt to pack a stack of bilateral meetings around the setpiece events.

The United States has downgraded its attendance at the summit, with Donald Trump choosing not to attend and sending his assistant national security adviser Robert O’Brien instead.

In a speech in Washington on Friday, Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds urged to US to play a greater role in the Indo-Pacific to counter China’s power and influence.

On the sidelines of the summit, Mr Morrison will address Australian and Thai business figures at a breakfast event.

Thailand is Australia’s 10th largest trading partner, importing roughly $4.8 billion worth of goods each year.

The prime minister will also pay his respects to Australians captured by Japan during World War II.

Mr Morrison will rededicate a memorial to the Burma-Thailand Railway and Hellfire Pass, with time capsules being resealed and moved to the Australian embassy in Bangkok.

“ASEAN and its forums, such as the East Asia Summit, play a central role in supporting the rules and norms that have underpinned prosperity, security and stability in our region for more than 50 years,” he said in a statement.

KEY ISSUES AT THE EAST ASIA SUMMIT:

* Tensions in the South China Sea

* Myanmar, Rakhine State and Rohingya refugees

* North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs

* Counter-terrorism, violent extremism and transnational crime

* Sustainable development

* Disaster management.

Originally published as China ‘ready to work’ with Australia