Australian delegation heading to Beijing for dialogue, government says

Illustration picture of Australian and Chinese flags

By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian industry, government, academic and media delegation will travel to Beijing for dialogue with Chinese counterparts on Thursday, another step in stabilising ties, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Saturday.

The high-level meetings, which do not include government ministers, had been held annually since 2014 as a platform to discuss issues of concern, but stopped after 2020.

Australia's former Labor trade minister Craig Emerson will head the Australian delegation, which will include former Liberal foreign minister Julie Bishop, to show bipartisan political support, a statement from Wong's office said.

Trade, investment, regional and international security will be discussed, the statement said.

China's former foreign affairs minister, Li Zhaoxing, will lead the Chinese delegation.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Secretary Jan Adams, who attended the last dialogue in Beijing as Australia's ambassador to China, will also be in the delegation.

"This is first time the Dialogue has been held since early 2020 and it represents another step towards increasing bilateral engagement and stabilising our relationship with China," Wong's statement said.

Emerson said the meeting was an opportunity to find common ground.

Diplomatic exchanges between the two major trading partners froze in 2020 as China placed curbs on a dozen Australian exports in response to Australia's call for an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tensions have eased since Australia elected a Labor government in May 2022, and China recently lifted tariffs on Australian barley exports.

Australia says it wants to see trade impediments on lobster and wine exports lifted, and has raised concerns about the detention of two Australian journalists on national security charges.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is expected to visit Beijing this year, although a date has not been set.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham in Sydney. Editing by Gerry Doyle)