Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has secured a new “strategic partnership” with China including an annual summit with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as well as top level talks between the Australian Treasurer and Foreign Affairs Minister with their Chinese counterparts. By securing such a formal improvement in relations between Australia and China, Gillard has finally put her own stamp on foreign affairs.
Ms Gillard is expected to announce the deal following her talks with Mr Li in Beijing Tuesday afternoon as she prepares to wrap up her five day visit to Australia’s largest trading partner.
A year in the making, Ms Gillard wanted to save the announcement until the end of her visit – sidestepping questions after her meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday night.
But the Prime Minister was gazumped by the Chinese Communist Party after a story appeared in state run newspapers, television and internet services this morning. Full details of the deal will be unveiled tomorrow but an annual summit between the Australian Prime Minister and Chinese Premier will be the centerpiece of the new partnership.
“[Mr] Xi said China and Australia have agreed to foster a strategic partnership built upon mutual trust and mutual benefit,” Xinhua reported.
“In a move to further build bilateral ties the two countries have also pledged to build an annual meeting mechanism between their Prime Ministers.”
While Australia has a number of existing bilateral dialogues with China in areas such as defence, finance and human rights it has lagged behind trade competitors such as the United States and European and a number of BRIC nations in inking a deal to have regular strategic talks with China.
Successive Australian governments have struggled to take the China relationship beyond the exports of resources and import of capital to fund mainly mining projects as well as students. In particular, summit meetings between the leaders of the two countries have – while not irregular – only been ad hoc and Gillard has been keen to formalise this.