Chinese premier Li Keqiang says ‘everyone will win’ from free trade between Australia and China

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Photo: Lintao Zhang/ Getty Images.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang expects “everyone will win” from free trade between his country and Australia.

Speaking at a special lunch in the Great Hall at Parliament House in Canberra, Li kicked off his five-day visit to Australia by saying he hopes to keep the close relationship between to two countries “moving forward”.

“In the world protectionism is rising and there are more voices against economic globalisation,” he said, through a translator.

How we respond to it, and seizing opportunities that present themselves will be important, he said, ahead of further trade negotiation discussions.

“We will continue to work on regulation oversight, we will continue to lower tariffs and continue to import Australian products so that Chinese people have more options,” Li said, adding that it will, in turn, encourage China to improve its own products.

“Everyone will win from this process.”

Beef imports are one area that would significantly benefit the Chinese agriculture industry, he said.

“We want to send out a joint message that we are standing together for free trade.”

Imported Australia beef. Photo: Sam Yeh/ AFP/ Getty Images.

In January, after US president Donald Trump signed a executive order to pull America from the Trans-Pacific trade deal, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull flagged the prospect of striking a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership that would excludes the US and include China.

New deals struck during Li’s visit will build on the free trade agreement which came into operation just over a year ago.

The Chinese premier also touched on strategic relations in today’s address.

“We come here for peace in the region,” he said. “Only with peace and tranquility can China can concentrate on its economy and development.

“China is firmly committed to the path of peaceful development,” adding that when it grows “we will never seek dominance”.

But Li warned “we don’t want to see taking sides as what happened in the cold war”.

“We will continue to work together to seek solutions.

“I believe we are all law abiding people and respect the rule of law.”

Tensions have been rising in the South China Sea where the country has been militarising islands in disputed territory.

Countries in the Pacific, including Australia, has been taking a “wait and see” approach to the issue, not wanting to cause confrontation.

Last year, after Australia supported an international ruling on China’s activities in the region, a Chinese state-run newspaper published an editorial attacking Australia and called for strikes on any ships which might undertake “freedom-of-navigation” activities in the region.

Turnbull has since stated that Australia has “a vested interest in peace and stability in our region’s seas and oceans” and that any disputes should be resolved in accordance with international law, sentiments mirrored by Li in his speech.

South China Sea Subi Reef
A satellite view of the Subi Reef CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative