BEIJING • Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will make his first trip to Australia since taking office in 2013 as part of efforts to promote free trade, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
Mr Li will visit Canberra, Sydney and Auckland on the week-long trip beginning on Wednesday. It will be the most senior visit from a Chinese official since President Xi Jinping's trip in 2014.
The visit comes as Australia takes on a greater role in fighting protectionism after United States President Donald Trump pulled his country from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, and threatened to put punitive tariffs on China. For decades, Australia has walked a fine line between supporting the strategic interests of the US, its main ally, while preserving economic ties with China, its top trading partner.
Mr Li will also travel to New Zealand for talks with government and business leaders next week, New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English announced yesterday.
Both New Zealand and Australia hope to salvage the TPP by encouraging China and other major Asian economies to join the trade treaty.
Mr Li and his wife, Professor Cheng Hong, will lead a delegation of business and government representatives to New Zealand from Sunday to Wednesday next week.
"The visit is an important opportunity to set the agenda for the next stage of our strong relationship and demonstrates our shared commitment to open trade and economic growth," Mr English said in a statement.