Australians offered visa-free travel to China as relations thaw

Australians can travel to China without applying for a visa after a key announcement during Premier Li Qiang’s visit.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang meets with Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the Australian Parliament House in Canberra, Australia June 17, 2024. Phoho: MICK TSIKAS/Pool via REUTERS

Chinese Premier Li Qiang meets with Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the Australian Parliament House in Canberra, Australia June 17, 2024. Phoho: MICK TSIKAS/Pool via REUTERS

Premier Li Qiang said China would include Australia in its visa-waiver program to fast-track access to the key business and tourism destination.

The change would allow Australian tourists visa-free entry into China for up to 15 days, a saving of about $110.

The visa change was announced at Parliament House late Monday after Qiang held high-level talks with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Qiang will spend his final day in Australia on Tuesday in Western Australia having meetings with business and community leaders.

In Perth, Li will visit a lithium plant before attending an Australia-China CEO roundtable event.

The roundtable will involve representatives from major Australian companies including Wesfarmers, Rio Tinto, ANZ and Fortescue meeting to discuss economic opportunity and free-trade agreements between the two countries.

Li will also visit Fortescue’s research and development facility in Perth.

The visit by Li to Australia, the first by a Chinese premier in seven years, had restored hope of China lifting all remaining trade sanctions that had been imposed since 2020.

While sanctions had been lifted on items such as beef and wine, trade restrictions remain on Australian rock lobster.

Chief executive of the University of Melbourne’s Asialink Business, Leigh Howard, said China had realised its trade bans hurt its own consumers and businesses as well as Australia.

Howard said while Li’s visit signalled the relationship between Australia and China was entering a new phase, questions remained.

“The leaders on both sides are signalling to businesses that they have a licence to engage,” Howard said.

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“With the relationship stabilising, the key question now is how this translates into action for significant and growing sectors such as the green economy, energy transition, digitalisation and the information economy.

“These sectors hold considerable potential. However, they also come with considerations related to national interests and security, including the security of supply chains and broader security concerns.”

Albanese said Australia’s approach to revitalising relations with China after several frosty years had been measured.

“Our approach has, of course, been patient, calibrated and deliberate,” he said.

“The recommencement of our regular annual leaders’ meeting has restored the high-level dialogue which is central to this stabilisation.”

Albanese, who will also be in Perth on Tuesday, said the pair had constructive talks during formal discussions in Canberra, with the leaders signing four memoranda of understanding in areas such as climate change, research and education.

Ahead of the CEO roundtable, Business Council of Australia chief executive Bran Black said it would be critical for both countries to work closer together.

“China is our largest two-way trading partner with total trade last year standing at $320 billion, and that figure is only set to grow as demand increases for investments linked to the energy transition,” he said.

“One in four jobs in Australia is linked to the export market, so roundtables like these help support those jobs and growing critical sectors.”


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