On March 21, 2017, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a briefing for Chinese and foreign media on Premier Li Keqiang's official visit to Australia and attendance at the fifth China-Australia Annual Prime Ministerial Meeting as well as the official visit to New Zealand. Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang introduced relevant situation and answered questions from Chinese and foreign journalists.
Zheng Zeguang said that, at the invitation of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia and Prime Minister Bill English of New Zealand, Premier Li Keqiang will pay official visits to Australia and New Zealand from March 22 to 29. This is the second visit of the Chinese Premier to Australia and New Zealand after 11 years, which is of great significance. At present, China-Australia relations and China-New Zealand relations have enjoyed sound development, and 2017 marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of China's diplomatic relations with the two countries.
In 2014, President Xi Jinping paid successful state visits to Australia and New Zealand, and relations between China and the two countries were promoted to the comprehensive strategic partnerships. During Premier Li Keqiang's visits, he will conduct in-depth communication with the leaders of Australia and New Zealand, enhance political mutual trust, expand mutually beneficial cooperation, and promote the level of exchanges, so as to push forward the further development of the comprehensive strategic partnerships between China and the two countries and better benefit the people of each country. Under the circumstances of the weak recovery of the current world economy as well as the rising trend of protectionism and deglobalization, the visits this time will send a positive message to the Asia-Pacific region and the world that China will work together with Australia and New Zealand to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and maintain regional peace, stability and prosperity.
I. On Visiting Australia and Holding the Fifth China-Australia Annual Prime Ministerial Meeting
Zheng Zeguang said that, Australia is an important country in the Asia-Pacific region and China and Australia are important economic and trade partners. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China-Australia relations have made considerable development with joint efforts of both countries. China has been Australia's largest trade partner for 8 consecutive years. With the full implementation of the free trade agreement (FTA) in 2016, the two-way trade between China and Australia amounted to 107.8 billion USD and the two-way investment stock exceeded 100 billion USD. China and Australia have cooperated closely on education, culture, tourism, the region, judicial, law enforcement, and international and regional affairs. In 2016, the number of personnel exchanges between the two countries exceeded 2 million, and 260,000 Chinese students were studying in Australia. 2017 is "China-Australia Year of Tourism" and the two countries are further strengthening cooperation in tourism. So far, China and Australia have established more than 100 pairs of sister provinces\states and cities.
During the visit to Australia, Premier Li Keqiang will hold the fifth China-Australia Annual Prime Ministerial Meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia and meet with Governor General Peter Cosgrove of Australia, Speakers of Federal Parliament of Australia and other Australian leaders to exchange in-depth views on uplifting level of bilateral practical cooperation and pushing forward China-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership. Both China and Australia will discuss how to better implement the bilateral FTA, strengthen the docking of development strategies, promote cooperation in science, technology and innovation, and deepen friendly exchanges and practical cooperation in trade, investment, energy, resources, justice and law enforcement, education, culture, tourism, the region and other fields. The two sides will sign a series of cooperation documents as well, further showing the comprehensiveness, strategic significance and practicability of cooperation between China and Australia. The Chinese Premier and Prime Minister of Australia will jointly attend China-Australia Economy and Trade Cooperation Forum, China-Australia State/Provincial Leaders Forum and other activities.
II. On Visiting to New Zealand
Zheng Zeguang stated that New Zealand is China's good friend and good partner in the region. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China-New Zealand relations have witnessed leapfrog development, creating many "firsts" in the China's relations with western developed countries. For example, New Zealand is the first country that recognized China's full market economy status, the first country that signed and conducted bilateral FTA and the first western country that joined in Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a founding member. In November, 2016, China and New Zealand announced to launch the negotiation of upgrading the bilateral free trade agreement, creating one more "first" in the bilateral relations. China-New Zealand relations have gradually become a good model of mutual respect, living in harmony and win-win cooperation between countries of different social systems.
During the visit to New Zealand, Premier Li Keqiang will hold talks with Prime Minister Bill English, and meet with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and other leaders of New Zealand to exchange in-depth views on improving the level of China-New Zealand practical cooperation and further developing China-New Zealand comprehensive strategic partnership. China and New Zealand will take the promotion of negotiations on the upgrade of China-New Zealand FTA as an opportunity to actively expand openness in trade and investment, so as to jointly build the "upgraded edition" of bilateral economic and trade cooperation. Both sides will strengthen the docking of development strategies, expand cooperation in such fields as infrastructure, agriculture and husbandry, scientific and technological innovation, enlarge cooperation in culture, education, tourism, civil aviation and other areas, so as to constantly enhance the basis of China-New Zealand friendly cooperation.
Zheng Zeguang pointed out that China, Australia and New Zealand attach great importance to Premier Li Keqiang's upcoming visits. Prime Minister of Australia and Prime Minister of New Zealand respectively delivered a statement recently to warmly welcome Premier Li Keqiang's visit, positively commenting bilateral relations and looking forward to promoting bilateral practical cooperation through this visit, which China highly appreciates. It is believed that with joint efforts of all parties, Premier Li Keqiang's visits to Australia and New Zealand will achieve significant and positive results and inject new robust impetus into the further development of China-Australia and China-New Zealand comprehensive strategic partnership.