Australia has come to a promising agreement with China to reopen discussions on key issues including trade sanctions following Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s visit to Beijing.
Speaking after meeting with Chinese counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday, Senator Wong said the two countries had taken an “important step” towards a stable relationship.
Australia and China have agreed to begin or restart dialogue on areas including trade, consular affairs, climate change and defence, while support was also committed to two exchange initiatives – the Track 1.5 dialogue and the Australia-China CEO Roundtable.
The two countries were working towards a “stable relationship”, Senator Wong said.
“I reiterated my view that we can grow our bilateral relationship and uphold our national interests, if both countries navigate our differences wisely,” she said.
“(China) agreed to a relationship based on mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit and navigating differences, in keeping with our comprehensive strategic partnership.
“I set out our position on issues of importance to Australians, including consular matters, trade blockages, human rights, international security and the global rules and norms that underpin our security and prosperity.”
The meeting was the first between Australian and Chinese foreign ministers in four years as the two nations marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
“We agreed to maintain high-level engagement and to commence or restart dialogue in areas including bilateral relations, consular affairs, trade and economic issues, climate change, defence, and regional and international issues,” Senator Wong said.
The meeting may have given some hope to the families of detained Australian journalist Cheng Lei and writer Yang Hengjun, as Australia pushed for consular access to foreign citizens in Chinese prisons.
Australia’s ambassador to China Graham Fletcher told News Corp that officials were “protesting vigorously” to visit detained Australians after consular access was blocked due to Covid policy.
“At the moment because China is experiencing a (Covid) surge, it has unfortunately stopped regular access to all prisoners … for all countries,” he said.
“China has learned that Australia has a sense of itself and a national interest.
“There are lots of things that Australia and China can work well together on … like climate change, renewables and health.”