Australia and China Strengthen Ties

Following months of negotiations between Australia and China, a strategic partnership agreement was concluded between Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the last day of Ms Gillard’s five-day visit to China. Analysts note that the agreement, which commits to annual meetings between the Prime Ministers of China and Australia, is a major achievement for Ms Gillard, bearing in mind that China has this type of arrangement with only two other countries, being Germany and Russia, with the latter being a fellow member of BRICS – the association of emerging national economies consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and since 2010, South Africa.

In addition to annual meetings between the Prime Ministers of the two countries, there will be permanent resources put in place to support dialogue, as well as annual meetings between the Foreign Ministers and other appointed officials of Australia and China. Among these will be the treasurer and trade minister of Australia and China’s chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). The NDRC has broad planning control and administrative powers within the Chinese economy and social development, and is widely considered to be one of the most influential of the country’s regulatory bodies. The NDRC has been headed up by Xu Shaoshi since March 2013.

The first bilateral trade talks are scheduled for May, with the Chinese Premier intimating that trade liberalization was a high priority matter with China’s new leadership. A factor which will no doubt boost bilateral trade between China and Australia is the new law enabling the two countries to trade directly in Australian dollars and Chinese currency, cutting the US dollar’s ‘middle-man’ role.

The formal signing ceremony in Beijing was the culmination of a long road paved by numerous negotiations at varying levels, and both parties expressed their commitment to increased cooperation in the years ahead. Australia and China are both members of the G20, APEC, East Asia Summit and the UN Security Council, with China being a permanent member of the latter.