Saturday, June 15, 2024

Chinese premier visit to include both ‘panda diplomacy’ and difficult issues

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Pandas Wang Wang and Fu Ni, aged 18 and 17 respectively, arrived in Adelaide in November 2009 under a $1 million-a-year loan agreement that was extended for another five years in 2019.

Asked if there would be an announcement about a renewal of the panda lease agreement during Li’s visit, Albanese said: “If I answered that then there might be a preempting of what may or may not occur.”

Adelaide Zoo pandas Fu Ni (left) and Wang Wang.Credit: Sanghee Liu

He added that the pandas had brought a “great deal of joy to families” who have visited the zoo and that they were an important tourist attraction for Adelaide.

Albanese used a visit to China last year to call for pandas to remain in Australia, saying: “Let me just say this: I’m pro-panda.

“I would on behalf of Australia’s kids and families like to see pandas maintain a presence in Australia.”

A Zoos South Australia spokeswoman said last year: “We do not know if Wang Wang and Fu Ni will remain at Adelaide Zoo or return to China.

“Formal discussions will soon commence with China Wildlife Conservation Association about our giant pandas and exploring whether a further loan extension is possible.”

Albanese said he would tell Li directly that the Chinese military behaved inappropriately when a Chinese fighter jet fired flares into the path of an Australian navy helicopter that was helping enforce United Nations sanctions in May.

“Australia was engaged in legitimate international activity and [the incident] should never have occurred because it was dangerous,” Albanese said.

“It should not happen again … So we will definitely be putting that forward.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong.Credit: Flavio Brancaleone

During his trip to Adelaide – the hometown of Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Trade Minister Don Farrell – Li will also dine with Australian wine exporters to celebrate the return of Australian wine to the Chinese market.

The Chinese government announced in March that it would remove crippling duties on Australian wine, leading Australia to drop a legal challenge in the World Trade Organisation.

China has removed restrictions on imported Australian coal, beef, barley, timber and hay it introduced from 2020, leaving lobster and crayfish as the main exports yet to be resolved.

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Albanese said: “I certainly would like to see that any impediments to our lobsters and crayfish, our magnificent seafood, being removed.

“Australia has an interest in trade with China; China has an interest in receiving our magnificent goods because of the quality. So this is a win-win.”

Li will meet with Albanese in Canberra on Monday for the annual Australia-China leaders’ meeting before travelling to Perth.

While in Perth on Tuesday, Li will visit the Chinese-controlled Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia processing plant to highlight the importance of mineral exports to China to the Australian economy.

Li will also attend a chief executive round table event hosted by the Business Council of Australia and meet with Perth’s Chinese-Australian community before returning to Beijing.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said on radio station 2GB he wanted to strengthen trade ties with China while working to preserve peace in the Indo-Pacific.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham welcomed Li’s visit, but said it “must fully address the difficulties and dangers presented by China’s risky regional military operations”.

“Australians will judge the visit on results, including progress on outstanding trade and consular cases, and dealing with incidents of cyberattacks and foreign interference,” he said.

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