PM tells China 'we value WTO trade rules framework'

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has delivered a rebuke of Beijing's economic coercion against Australia, defending the global rules-based trade framework.

Addressing the China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Sunday, Mr Albanese said Australia continued to highly value the World Trade Organisation for its role as an "independent" umpire.

"The framework of trade rules provides certainty and opportunity for redress if problems arise," he said.

"Australia and China have prospered thanks to the certainty and stability that is made possible by rules-based trade."

Anthony Albanese speaks at the China International Import Expo.
Anthony Albanese says the rules-based trade framework offers certainty and stability.

China imposed punitive trade bans worth $20 billion at the height of a diplomatic spat in 2020.

The sanctions have now been reduced to $2 billion, with a five-month review underway by Beijing on bans on Australian wine exports worth $1.2 billion.

At the trade expo's opening session, Chinese Premier Li Qiang said Beijing will continue to seek access to a multi-nation trade bloc.

Beijing has been seeking to join the 12-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership for some time and wants Australia's backing.

Mr Li said China "will always stand on the right side of history" and would "resolutely oppose" unilateralism and protectionism.

Beijing would "firmly uphold" the authority and effectiveness of the multilateral trading system, he added.

China's Premier Li Qiang.
China's Premier Li Qiang says Beijing will continue to seek access to a multi-nation trade bloc.

The Chinese premier remained to listen to the prime minister's speech.

Australia has suspended two disputes it took against China to the WTO over Beijing's punitive tariffs on barley and wine.

Mr Albanese described the relationship with China as "mature" and "complementary" by nature.

"Australia and China have prospered thanks to the certainty and stability that is made possible by rules-based trade," he added.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to ask Mr Albanese for Australia's support for his country's bid to join the partnership when the pair meet in Beijing on Monday.

But the prime minister is expected to reiterate that the bloc has the highest standards for entry, and will need the unanimous support of members to allow new nations in.

China believes its application to join the trans-Pacific trade agreement is crucial to upgrading economic co-operation with Australia.

Mr Albanese arrived in Shanghai on Saturday night, becoming the first Australian prime minister to visit Australia's largest trading partner in seven years.

Although the Labor government has made strides in improving the relationship with China over the last 18 months, Trade Minister Don Farrell - who is accompanying the prime minister in China - says the relationship is "not what it was a number of years ago".

Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Tim Watts said the government's efforts are not about resetting the relationship, but rather stabilising it.

"It's not possible to turn back time. We can't reset the relationship to what it was back in 2016," he said on Sunday.

"What a relationship between Australia and China looks like in that new world is going to mean different things to China and to Australia.

"We need to use all of our Australian tools of statecraft, across defence, across diplomatic capabilities, across our economic capabilities, and co-ordinate and align them in the pursuit of our own interests."

On Saturday night, after a dinner hosted by Mr Li, Mr Albanese reaffirmed the importance of ties with China.

"It is in Australia's interests to have a positive and constructive and open and respectful dialogue with our major trading partner," he said.

"And that's what I hope to achieve over the coming days when I'll be meeting with President Xi, Premier Li and other leaders here in China."