The Australian Albanese has a “positive” conversation with the Chinese Li

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese spoke briefly with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at a regional summit in Cambodia on Sunday, ahead of an official summit with President Xi Jinping.

Relations between the countries have deteriorated in recent years, with China imposing sanctions on some Australian imports and reacting angrily to Canberra’s call for an international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

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Albanese and Li spoke on their arrival at an event held on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

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“I say it was constructive, it was positive,” Albanese said in a press conference later. “I think it’s a good thing that happened. I have said many times about the relationship with China that we should cooperate where we can.

“And that dialogue is always a good thing.”

The short discussion came amid speculation of a possible meeting between Albanese and Xi at a Group of 20 major economies summit in Indonesia on Monday.

On Wednesday, the Australian leader said a meeting with Xi would be a positive development after years of strained relations.

The last summit meeting in 2019 saw Albanese predecessor Scott Morrison meet Xi at a G20 meeting, the Australian Foreign Office said.

Xi will attend the G20 meeting on the resort island of Bali, an adviser to Indonesian President Joko Widodo has said.

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Albanese also held a 40-minute “constructive” meeting with US 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 had invited Biden to address parliament when Australia hosts a meeting of leaders of the Quad regional group next year.

Negotiations also ended in Phnom Penh to upgrade the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), he added.

The improvements covered aspects of e-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 relationship between ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand,” Albanese said.

In addition to Australia and New Zealand, the signatories of the pact, concluded for the first time in 2009, are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. (Reporting by Sam McKeith in Sydney; Editing by William Mallard and Clarence Fernandez)


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