China, Australia agree to promote trade liberalization

Cornelia Mascio
Aprile 2, 2017

For example, China removed the last remaining restrictions on imports of Australian beef on Friday.

China's building projects in the South China Sea are not a militarization of the region, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang told journalists in Canberra on Friday.

China needs military equipment on reclaimed reefs in the South China Sea to defend its trade interests in the region, Premier Li Keqiang said, while denying his nation is militarising the disputed waters.

"With respect to the so-called militarization, China never has any intention to engage in militarization in the South China Sea", Li said following a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said Australia will also be selling donkey meat and edible skins into China.

Australia is one of several countries trying to salvage the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by encouraging China and other Asian countries to join the trade pact after US President Donald Trump abandoned the accord.

A day after official commitments, Li, the first sitting premier to visit Australia in 11 years, watched Port Adelaide Power play against the Sydney Swans in the opening round of the 2017 Australian Football League season. This comes in the wake of China's announcement that it will be putting a halt on imports from Brazil following a scandal concerning sales of meats infected with salmonella.

China has built numerous military facilities on islets in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims nearly in its entirety but whose sovereignty has been disputed by five other countries, leading to an escalation of multilateral tensions in the region, Efe news reported. A free trade agreement between the two countries, known as ChAFTA, took effect in December 2015. "Even if there is a certain amount of defence equipment or facilities, it is for maintaining the freedom of navigation", he said.

"For now", Beijing "would be satisfied just to have [Australia] on China's side economically", according to a Chinese diplomatic source.

China has drawn worldwide criticism for large-scale building in the South China Sea, although Li told reporters in Australia the development was for civilian purposes only.

"The bilateral relationship between China and the United States is the single most important one for the prosperity and security and stability of the world, and the fact that we have very strong relationships, but different relationships - different in context and in terms of history - with both the United States and China, that is a great strength", the prime minister said on Friday.

China will also work with countries including Australia to safeguard regional and global peace and stability in a complicated and changing world, where rising protectionism poses a variety of global challenges, he added. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the sea.

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