Having recently concluded a summit in South Korea, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is set to meet with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao to discuss trade, among other things.
On Monday, Gillard and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak ended their summit with a promise to conclude, by the end of the year, talks leading to a free trade agreement between the two countries. The talks, which started in May 2009, were put on hold over Australia’s demand for a widening of the beef market.
Report: S. Korea, Australia set free trade talks deadline [Reuters, 25 Apr 2011]
Gillard has said that the key focus of her Chinese visit is to strengthen economic ties with China, Australia’s largest trading partner. However, she intends to raise issues pertaining to China’s human rights policies and its alliance with North Korea.
Report: Australia’s Gillard to woo China, press on human rights [Reuters, 26 Apr 2011]
In 2009, ties between Canberra and Beijing were strained when China detained and jailed four employees of the Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto, including the Australian national Stern Hu, for stealing commercial secrets and taking bribes.
Background and analysis: Stern Hu and China’s “rule of law” [East Asia Forum, 5 Feb 2011]
The Australian Prime Minister believes it is possible for Australia to maintain a balance between its strong alliance with the US and seeking closer economic and political ties with China.
"For Australia this is not an either-or question," she said. "We are a long-standing alliance partner of the United States. China knows that and that alliance will continue for the future and China knows that as well.