SYDNEY — Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese spoke briefly with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at a regional summit in Cambodia on Sunday, amid anticipation of a formal summit with President Xi Jinping.
The countries’ ties have deteriorated in recent years, with China putting sanctions on some Australian imports and reacting angrily to Canberra’s call for an international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.
Albanese and Li spoke on arrival at an event held on the sidelines of the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
“I say it was constructive, it was positive,” Albanese told a news conference later. “I think it’s a good thing it happened. I have said repeatedly about the relationship with China that we should cooperate where we can.
“And that dialog is always a good thing.”
The short discussion came amid speculation about a possible meeting between Albanese and Xi at a summit of the Group of 20 big economies in Indonesia on Monday
On Wednesday, the Australian leader said a meeting with Xi would be a positive development after years of tense relations.
The last summit meeting in 2019 saw Albanese’s predecessor, Scott Morrison, meet Xi at a G20 meeting, Australia’s foreign ministry said.
Xi will attend the G20 meeting on the resort island of Bali, an adviser to Indonesian president Joko Widodo has said.
Albanese also held a 40-minute “constructive” meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden. Topics ranging from climate change and regional security to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the AUKUS partnership figured in the talks, he added.
Albanese said he invited Biden to address parliament when Australia hosts a meeting next year of leaders of the Quad regional grouping.
Negotiations also wrapped up in Phnom Penh to upgrade the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), he added.
Improvements covered aspects of electronic commerce, competition, customs procedures and trade facilitation, trade in goods, and rules of origin, he said.
“Today we open an ambitious new chapter for the growing economic relationships between ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand,” Albanese said.
Besides Australia and New Zealand, signatories to the pact, first struck in 2009, are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. (Reporting by Sam McKeith in Sydney; Editing by William Mallard and Clarence Fernandez)