Australia ‘Not Naive’ on China as Li Visit Looms, Chalmers Says

(Bloomberg) -- Australia is realistic about the challenges in its diplomatic relationship with Beijing, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said, as the country prepares for the first visit by a Chinese premier in more than seven years.

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While ties between the trading partners had been on a “steadier footing” over the past two years, the government wasn’t “naive or unrealistic about the challenges of managing what is a complex relationship,” Chalmers said on the sidelines of the Morgan Stanley Australia Summit in Sydney.

“Our job is to engage, to do that in a meaningful and respectful way, to speak up for and stand up for our national interest when that’s necessary, but overwhelmingly to manage that relationship in the interests of our people and our economy,” the Treasurer told Bloomberg Television. “I think we have made some good progress there.”

Premier Li Qiang will visit Australia for four days starting Saturday, touring Adelaide, Canberra and Perth as part of the most high-profile diplomatic trip by a Chinese official to the country since relations began to deteriorate in 2017.

While the visit is the latest sign of warming relations between Australia and China, both countries are facing strategic and political tensions across a range of fronts, from strengthening security ties between Canberra and Washington to the global struggle over critical mineral supply chains.

Beijing has been pushing for Chinese businesses to be given greater access to Australia’s critical minerals sector over the past year with little success. Earlier this month, Chalmers ordered a China-linked investor to divest its stake in a rare earths miner.

“We’ve been very upfront about our interest here, and where we need to advance our interests we’ll do so, whether it’s in the foreign investment review board process or in other ways,” Chalmers said. “We see critical minerals really as the opportunity of the century for Australia.”

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