China-Australia relations: before Anthony Albanese’s visit, Canberra ‘will not oppose’ Beijing’s CPTPP trade-pact bid

With relations between China and Australia improving in the lead-up to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s long-anticipated visit next week, sources said Canberra will not stand in the way of Beijing joining one of the world’s biggest multilateral trade deals.

Australia “will not oppose China joining the CPTPP” – the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – and will “consider China’s application on its merits”, one source said, emphasising that this is not a vow to advocate for China.

It would mark a step closer for China to join the trade bloc, which also includes Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Japan, though, is seen as a major obstacle, as any application to join the trade bloc must be approved by all members.

“[And Australia] will not advocate for Taiwan’s CPTPP membership, despite Japanese pressure to do so,” the source added.

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Taiwan applied to join the 11-member trade bloc on September 22, 2021, six days after Beijing, and amid concerns that the island could be blocked from the deal.

Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be reunited with the mainland – by force if necessary – and has steadily ramped up military pressure on the self-ruled island while opposing official meetings between Taipei and countries that recognise China.

Both China and Australia have agreed to sidestep sensitive issues and to focus on trade – such as lifting sanctions on Australian wine and lobsters – when Albanese meets with Chinese authorities from November 4-7, according to sources from both countries.

A request to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment was not immediately returned.

The Albanese administration has been working on stabilising ties with Australia’s largest trade partner. Bilateral relations soured in 2020 after his predecessor called for an international probe into the origin of the coronavirus. Beijing responded by imposing crippling tariffs on Australian goods such as wine and lobsters.

Since Albanese took office in May 2022, both countries have taken steps to improve relations, with some concessions made.

China extended the invitation to Albanese in April. It would be the first China visit by an Australian leader in seven years, and it would coincide with the 50th anniversary of former prime minister Gough Whitlam’s visit in October and November of 1973.
“The framework of the deal was worked out in a series of understandings over nearly a year, beginning in November 2022 when Albanese met [President] Xi [Jinping] in Jakarta,” a source said.
china australia relations before anthony albaneses visit canberra will not oppose beijings cptpp trade pact bid 1


Australian journalist Cheng Lei in first interview since release from China detention

Australian journalist Cheng Lei in first interview since release from China detention

And Canberra announced at the weekend that both countries had resolved their dispute over wine tariffs, which reached as high as 218.4 per cent and essentially wiped out Australia’s Chinese wine market, which had been worth about US$1.2 billion a year.
Also last week, Australian authorities decided not to cancel the 99-year lease of Darwin Port to China’s Landbridge Group, and they said there were no intentions to launch any anti-dumping cases against Chinese firms for the foreseeable future.

The Albanese administration may also assess policies for Chinese investment in Australia but has “refused” to reconsider Huawei Technologies’ access to the nation’s 5G broadband network – a ban in place since 2018 – and there will be no concessions on national security issues.

“Australia has stabilised its relationship [with China],” a source said, but those relations “will not return to the status quo nor further improve”, owing to Australia’s participation in the Aukus security pact and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which Beijing sees as anti-China.

The Australian leader had planned to visit China earlier in the year, but Beijing delayed it so as not to “reward Albanese/Australia for Aukus”, the source said.

Instead, China waited for the symbolic half-century anniversary of Whitlam’s meeting with former leader Mao Zedong.

And Albanese’s visit will also coincide with the China International Import Expo, which he plans to attend in Shanghai after meeting with Chinese leaders in Beijing.

South China Morning Post

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