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New kid on the bloc: Albo may back China's bid for Pacific trade pact

Business

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has left open the possibility of Australia backing China’s bid to join a trans-Pacific trade bloc, as he prepares to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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Mr Albanese arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport about 9pm AEDT on Sunday.

“It’s very good to be back in Beijing,” he said.

“(I look forward to) further constructive dialogue and further advancement of the friendship between our two great nations.”

Disembarking his RAAF plane, Mr Albanese stepped onto a red carpet lined with Chinese military personnel to mark his arrival.

Speaking in Shanghai earlier on the first day of his trip, Mr Albanese reaffirmed Australia’s support for rules-based trade and stated the nation’s support for the World Trade Organisation, which he described as an independent umpire.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang opened a major trade show by pledging Beijing’s support for international rules and rejecting protectionism.

Mr Albanese would not rule out backing China’s application to join the 12-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“What we’ve said is any country must demonstrate that it can meet the high standards of the agreement and that is the basis of that going forward,” he said.

Mr Albanese will meet with Mr Xi at the Great Hall of the People on Monday evening AEDT.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong will also accompany the prime minister during the meeting with China’s president.

Ahead of the high-level talks, he will visit the Temple of Heaven, as Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam did during his landmark visit to China in 1973.

Mr Albanese has become the first Australian prime minister in seven years to set foot in the country.

Former Australian ambassador to China Geoff Raby said the meeting with President Xi gave Australia a chance to look to the future of ties with the Asian nation.

“This is a period to look ahead in the relationship, put the issues that have been so divisive to one side,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“In conversation with the president, of course, we would expect the prime minister will make Australia’s position on these issues very clear.

Senior fellow at the Lowy Institute Richard McGregor said while the federal government had helped stabilise relations, China was always willing to come to the table.

“The government really has been pushing at an open door. In other words, China was very amenable to stabilising the relationship,” he told ABC Radio.

“We can build relationships in a way, but we are a close United States ally. Over the course of the falling-out with China, we’ve become a closer (ally to the US).”

Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said it was critical for Mr Albanese to raise foreign interference issues with China.

“We have to be honest and recognise that this is not just another bilateral relationship,” he said.

“It’s not normal with the country that you have a comprehensive strategic partnership with for them to be engaged in massive cyber attacks that are state backed.”

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