Ministers’ meeting signals thaw in China-Australia ties

The Associated Press

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shake hands after a joint press conference in Beijing on Thursday.

The Associated Press BEIJING (AP) — The Australian government’s rejection of a Chinese bid to take over an energy infrastructure company does not indicate a change in the country’s openness to doing business with China, Foreign Minister Marie Payne said Thursday.

Speaking after a meeting in Beijing with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that marked a thaw in recently chilly relations, Payne stressed “the importance of Australia’s welcoming of Chinese investment in Australia.”

On Wednesday, Australia said it intends to block a Chinese and Hong Kong consortium’s 13 billion Australian dollar ($9 billion) bid to take over the APA group.

Payne said the government judged that the acquisition would have resulted in “an undue concentration of foreign ownership by a single company group in what is our most significant gas transmission business.”

“We remain absolutely committed as a government to welcoming foreign investment into Australia. It supports jobs, it helps us to increase living standards,” she said.

Payne’s meeting with Wang was seen indicating an improvement in ties between the key economic partners after months of tension over accusations of Chinese interference in Australian politics, media and academia. That threatened to upset political ties as well as economic relations with China, which buys about one-third of Australia’s exports.

“I think the most important outcome of this dialogue is that we have reaffirmed the course of this relationship,” Wang said after the meeting, which ran an hour longer than scheduled.

Australia has banned Chinese giants Huawei and ZTE Corp. from new telecommunications projects, and an Australian security think tank has raised concerns about increasing collaboration between Australian universities and China’s People’s Liberation Army scientists on research programs such as hypersonic missiles and navigation technology.Speech

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