CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Wednesday that a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping would be a “positive thing” if it could be held on the sidelines of one of the leaders’ summits taking place. will be held in Southeast Asia. this month.
Albanese’s shift from neutral language on the prospects of his first meeting with the Chinese leader suggests the Australian leader expects talks to take place.
“I said very clearly that dialogue is a good thing, and so if a meeting is arranged with Xi, then that would be a positive thing,” Albanese told reporters.
Albanese leaves Australia on Friday for an East Asia summit in Cambodia, followed by a Group of 20 meeting in Indonesia, then an Asia-Pacific economic cooperation forum meeting in Thailand.
Albanese said his office was holding a “series of meetings” with “various leaders,” which would be announced when details were finalized.
Sino-Australian relations have shown signs of thawing since May, when the centre-left Albanese Labor Party won elections for the first time in nine years. Beijing immediately relaxed the ban on contact between ministers.
Albanese urged China to show good faith to its new government by lifting a series of official and unofficial trade barriers that cost Australian exporters around 20 billion Australian dollars ($13 billion) a year. But China has shown no signs of easing trade restrictions.
Chinese Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian said in August that Beijing would discuss with Australia if conditions were in place in November for Albanese to meet Xi in Indonesia at the G-20 summit. Xi is not expected to attend the East Asia summit.
The meeting would come as competition for influence between South Pacific island nations has intensified between Australia and China since Beijing struck a security pact with the Solomon Islands earlier this year that sparked fears the establishment of a Chinese naval base in the region.
Bilateral relations with Australia’s former Conservative government have soured over issues such as Australian demands for an independent investigation into the COVID-19 pandemic and a ban on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei’s involvement in networks. Australian 5G for security reasons.