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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Opinion -> 
Cementing ties with Oceania
    2017-04-03  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Winton Dong

    dht620@sina.com

    PREMIER Li Keqiang paid an official visit to Australia and New Zealand from March 22 to 29, the first trip made by a Chinese premier to the two Oceanian nations in 11 years. The eight-day visit, amid the rising atmosphere of protectionism, has sent a strong signal to the world that China and the two Oceanian countries will further promote the liberalization of trade, friendship and cooperation.

    This year also marks the 45th anniversary of China’s establishment of diplomatic ties with both Australia and New Zealand. Premier Li said that China has built mutual trust with the two nations during the past years and the country is willing to work with Australia and New Zealand for an early agreement on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

    “We have seen in practice how the trend of economic globalization has become closely interconnected with, even inseparable from peace, development and cooperation,” Premier Li wrote in an article published in the mainstream newspaper The Australian before his visit.

    While in Australia, Li negotiated with his counterpart Malcolm Turnbull about making better use of the bilateral free trade agreement, which took effect in December 2015. According to figures from the Chinese General Administration of Customs, trade volume between China and Australia reached US$107.8 billion last year, almost three times more than Australia’s trade with the United States. China had a roughly US$50 billion trade deficit with Australia in 2016 and has been the country’s biggest trading partner for eight consecutive years since 2009.

    As we all know, Australia is a traditional ally of the United States. There are about 2,000 U.S. soldiers garrisoned in Australia now and many facilities within its territory such as telecommunication stations and electronic surveillance stations are for the convenience of U.S. military use. However, when addressing the issue that some observers and media outlets are encouraging Washington and Canberra to contain China, Premier Li, at a joint press conference with Turnbull, frankly commented that Chinese-Australian relations do not target any third party and there should be no such issue as taking sides as Australia independently develops its ties with China and the United States.

    To further expand the free trade agreement between the two countries, China has given licenses to all qualified Australian beef exporters. Originally, only 11 Australian companies were authorized to export beef to China and now 36 new exporters will be added to the list. Moreover, China is also scheduled to invest US$4.6 billion in an iron ore project in Western Australia. The project, which will be launched in 2018, is expected to create 3,300 new jobs in the country.

    “Australia will work closely with China to defend free trade and open markets, which will bring more benefits to both peoples,” Turnbull said. The prime minister also announced that Australia would open a new consulate general in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province, aiming to ease visa applications from Northeast China.

    From March 26 to 29, Li visited New Zealand and met with Prime Minister Bill English. The two leaders discussed a range of issues promoting cooperation and developing a comprehensive partnership. The most notable achievement of Li’s trip was the announcement to upgrade the nine-year China-New Zealand free trade agreement. “The first round of negotiations on the upgrade of the free trade agreement will be conducted from April 25 to 27 this year,” English said. Initially signed in 2008, it was the first agreement of such kind China has ever signed with a developed country.

    China is also the largest trading partner of New Zealand with an estimated trade volume of 113 billion yuan (US$16.5 billion) last year. More than 400,000 Chinese tourists visited New Zealand in 2016 and about 35,000 Chinese students are studying in the island country. According to an agreement signed on March 27 this year, New Zealand will start issuing five-year multi-entry visas to qualified Chinese applicants in the near future.

    Besides cooperation in fields such as customs clearance, higher education, agriculture and food export, New Zealand also became the first Western developed economy to sign a memorandum to align with China’s Belt and Road Initiative during Premier Li’s visit to the country.

    No matter if it is a coincidence or not, following the footsteps of Premier Li, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will also visit Australia this month. However, with U.S. President Donald Trump’s adherence to the “America First” strategy, it is virtually impossible for Australia to expect much progress in terms of its trade with traditional friend the United States in the coming years. According to a survey conducted at the end of last year, about two-thirds of Australian people opposed the election of Trump as U.S. president.

    Both Australia and New Zealand are strong advocates and important participants of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). In 2016, the TPP was signed in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, with 12 initiative member states. The recent withdrawal of the United States from the TPP is a heavy blow to the two Oceanian countries and TPP as a whole.

    (The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily and guest professor of Shenzhen University with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)

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