The visit was the first public step by the Morrison government to thaw Australia’s frosty relations with China over the past two years.
The visit was the first public step by the Morrison government to thaw Australia’s frosty relations with China over the past two years.

ScoMo hopes to thaw frosty relations with China

Scott Morrison will strive to steady Australia's rocky relationship with China at the East Asia Summit next week by seeking separate talks with its Premier Li Keqiang.

The move to establish talks with Asia's economic powerhouse on the sidelines of the key annual regional event in Singapore comes after Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham visited Beijing last week.

The visit was the first public step by the Morrison government to thaw Australia's frosty relations with China over the past two years.

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants to thaw frosty relations with China. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett)
Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants to thaw frosty relations with China. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

 

He hopes to speak and meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Picture: Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images
He hopes to speak and meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Picture: Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images

The Prime Minister will also seek a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the summit with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to discuss regional security and trade.

Mr Morrison yesterday confirmed these meetings were not yet locked in.

US Vice-President Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo are among other leaders attending the summit.

Mr Morrison also hopes to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping when he goes to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' week in Papua New Guinea next week or the G20 in Argentina later this year.

 

Morrison also hopes to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Picture: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Morrison also hopes to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Picture: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

 

The Morrison government has been working hard to restore relations with China, which soured over former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull's handling of foreign interference laws.

Australia also blocked Chinese telecom firms Huawei and ZTE from operating the country's new 5G network.

Ms Payne's visit last week was the first between the two countries' foreign ministers on Chinese soil in over two years.

But China's investment throughout the Indo-Pacific - widely seen as a soft push for control in the region - was likely to be on the agenda in Singapore. It could cause further tensions after Mr Morrison last week announced $3 billion in investment funding for the Pacific.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last week said the two countries were "not competitors" but partners in the region.

 

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham had earlier visited Beijing. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham had earlier visited Beijing. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

 

As did Foreign Minister Marise Payne. Picture: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein
As did Foreign Minister Marise Payne. Picture: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

 

Mr Morrison yesterday played down the chances of signing off on a free trade deal with Indonesia at the Singapore summit despite plans to meet with President Widodo.

The deal had been mooted as ready to sign as early as January but Mr Morrison said there was "no rush" to get it done.

Indonesia was angered by Australia's decision to consider moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

"The intention was the trade ministers would be able to deal with that by the end of the year, but there's no hurry," Mr Morrison said.

Other issues expected to be addressed at the high-profile summit include escalating trade tensions between the US and China and progress on a 16-country free trade deal.



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