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The Australian :China deal the cornerstone of Julia Gillard's Asian Century

10/04/2013 |SID MAHER |The Australian 
ULIA Gillard has scored a foreign policy coup, signing a historic pact with China for direct annual meetings with Premier Li Keqiang and pledges for formal co-operation on climate change, international aid and currency trading.

Capping a five-day visit to China by Australia's most senior political delegation, the deal represents one of the most significant breakthroughs in the Australia-China relationship since Gough Whitlam recognised the communist state more than 40 years ago.
The Prime Minister's foreign policy success clinches a key priority of the government's Asian Century agenda.
It means the nation now has strategic relationships with the emerging powerhouse economies of China and India.
Ms Gillard, who was welcomed by a full military honour guard before entering the meeting with Mr Li at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, said last night the clinching of the high-level leadership dialogue represented a "significant breakthrough" in the Australia-China relationship.
"When the history of this relationship is written, I think this will be remembered as a day that a big step forward was taken," the Prime Minister said.
Australia will join Britain, Germany and Russia among the countries to have formal annual meetings between their leaders and the Chinese Premier.
The enhanced bilateral architecture, which designates the Australia-China relationship as a strategic partnership, will include an annual foreign and strategic dialogue between the Chinese and Australian foreign ministers. An annual economic dialogue will also provide for meetings between the Australian treasurer and trade minister and the chairman of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission.
Ms Gillard said Mr Li had shown significant interest in free trade agreement talks with Australia, which are set to resume next month.
Ms Gillard also confirmed that she raised as consular matters the cases of Australia businessmen held in Chinese jails and the issue of Tibet but she did not elaborate on the discussions.
Ms Gillard also met last night with Huawei global chairwoman Sun Yafang.
The China deal also provides for "working-level" discussions between the Australian Defence Department and the People's Liberation Army later this year on regional security issues and the Australian defence white paper.
The deal is seen as a significant step forward for the relationship between Australia and China.
It provides Australia with organised direct access to the Chinese leadership at a time when the rest of the world is clamouring for their attention. It is likely to drive work on trade liberalisation and regulation reform as regular meetings between leaders are seen as ways to drive outcomes from bureaucracies.
Ms Gillard and Mr Li also witnessed two commercial deals worth a combined $3.1 billion.
China's Minmetals Corporation, the China Development Bank and Australia's Minerals and Metals Group signed a mining finance facility and minerals development contract worth $1.5bn to develop the Dugald River zinc, lead and silver mine near Cloncurry in Queensland.
Hydro Tasmania and China's Shenhua Group signed a $1.6bn strategic co-operation agreement to develop a further 700MW of wind farms across Australia.
The sealing of the Australia-China pact follows a telephone conversation late last month between Ms Gillard and President Xi Jinping shortly after he took power. Ms Gillard wrote to then president Hu Jintao about the proposal last year and sent then secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Dennis Richardson, to China as an envoy to promote the plan.
"The relationship will be described as a strategic partnership to reflect the importance both countries place on the relationship, its expanding scope and depth and the shared interests of both sides in a stable and peaceful Asian region," the Prime Minister said.
She yesterday told the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Beijing that the continuing growth and change in the Australia-China relationship demanded new measures to "keep it strong". She said the regular meetings would give leaders an opportunity to set new objectives, make new decisions and direct new policy work.
"We should set an ambitious goal: a level and structure of dialogue which Australia shares with only a handful of countries and one which China also shares with only very few nations," she said.


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