Anthony Albanese has met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in a sign tensions could be thawing between the two countries after a two-year trade war.
The pair spoke at a dinner hosted by King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia as world leaders came together for the East Asia and ASEAN summits in Phnom Penh.
It’s a significant development as work continues behind the scenes to secure a meeting between the Australian prime minister and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Anthony Albanese has met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in a sign tensions could be thawing between the two countries after a two-year trade war
The pair spoke at a dinner hosted by King of Cambodia Norodom Sihamoni as world leaders came together for the East Asia and ASEAN summits in Phnom Penh (pictured, Chinese premier Li Keqiang)
A meeting between the pair would mark a massive turning point for the two countries whose relationship deteriorated over the past couple of years.
Former prime minister Scott Morrison angered China when he called for an inquiry into the origins of Covid in 2020.
The two countries spiralled into a trade war with tariffs slapped on exports like barley, coal, lobster, and wine.
Mr Jinping has not had a formal meeting with an Australian prime minister since Malcolm Turnbull in 2016.
It was the first time Mr Albanese met Premier Li and the pair spoke about the upcoming 50-year anniversary of diplomatic relations between their two countries.
Mr Albanese was seated next to Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the gala and also spoke to US President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Trust, communication, and collaboration have been at the heart of Mr Albanese’s approach to meetings with his fellow world leaders.
He has committed to upholding the ideals of peace and freedom and said that would be done by building trust among nations.
It’s a significant development as work continues behind the scenes to secure a meeting between the Australian prime minister and Chinese President Xi Jinping
But China’s sanctions on Australia and security muscle-flexing in the region are key issues the prime minister is wanting to tackle.
‘Dialogue is a good thing. Out of dialogue comes understanding and we need more, not less, in today’s world,’ Mr Albanese said.
‘We know there’s strategic competition in this region and that’s the context of any meeting that will take place between the US and China.’
Mr Albanese said he was waiting for the finalisation of a meeting with Mr Xi and he looks forward to having a constructive dialogue.
‘I think there is a great deal of goodwill here, certainly from Australia,’ he said.
‘I have no reason to think there’s not goodwill on the Chinese side as well.’
On Sunday the prime minister is expected to give two speeches at the summits and later tour an exhibition in Phnom Penh with other world leaders.
‘This is a chance for us to build relationships in our region so early in the term of the new government,’ he said.
‘I’m very pleased that it’s so constructive and the dialogue is so positive.’
It will be the prime minister’s final day in Phnom Penh before he travels to Bali for the G20 summit.
Former prime minister Scott Morrison angered China when he backed a call for an inquiry into the origins of Covid in 2020
Australian Institute of International Affairs national president Allan Gyngell said if President Xi didn’t meet with Mr Albanese it would be a huge snub.
‘That would be a real slap to Australia and some sign the Chinese don’t want to do anything to improve relations,’ he told The Australian.
‘If it doesn’t happen it’s a line drawn under the relationship.’
Mr Albanese said his job at the ASEAN summit was to advocate not only for Australia but for its Pacific Island neighbours.
This could be interpreted as referring to China’s attempts to charm Pacific Island nations to its side, as it already did in signing a security agreement with the Solomon Islands.
‘Australia has always been an outward-facing nation and we have never shied away from facing up to global challenges,’ he said.
‘The global economic outlook is stark, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated the challenges of food insecurity, rising energy prices, rising inflation and cost-of-living pressures globally.
‘Australia strongly supports ASEAN’s central role in the region and its vision for the region is closely aligned with our own.
‘At each summit I will emphasise Australia’s commitment to the global transition to net zero, and our vision for a stable, peaceful, resilient and prosperous region.’