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China’s foreign minister to visit Australia next week as ties improve

China’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, will visit Australia next week, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Thursday, a sign of a further thaw in relations after years of tensions.

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China’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, will visit Australia next week, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Thursday, a sign of a further thaw in relations after years of tensions.

“I look forward to meeting Wang Yi during his visit to Canberra next week,” Albanese said during a televised media briefing. “It’s a good thing that Wang Yi is visiting, it’s a good thing to have dialogue.”

Albanese said “significant progress” had been made in recent months to remove trade impediments with China, Australia’s largest trading partner.

Australia’s diplomatic relations with China had been severely strained since 2018 when the previous conservative government banned Huawei from providing equipment during the rollout of its 5G network. Ties soured further after Canberra called for an independent investigation into the origin of COVID-19.

China responded by imposing tariffs on several Australian commodities. It has been lifting most trade blocks since Albanese’s Labor government came to power two years ago.

Australia’s top publicly listed winemaker Treasury Wine Estates on Tuesday said China’s Ministry of Commerce has released an interim proposal to remove tariffs on Australian wine, raising hopes nearly three years of stiff duties would soon end.

“That is a positive development,” Albanese said, adding wine exports to China were worth more than AU$1 billion ($662 million) annually before tariffs were enforced. He said he was confident those restrictions would be lifted.

Australia Foreign Minister Penny Wong is expected to raise consular matters, trade impediments, human rights, conflict prevention and regional security during her talks with Wang Yi next Wednesday.

“It’s Australia’s view that a stable bilateral relationship would enable both countries to pursue respective national interests, if we navigate our differences wisely,” Wong said in a statement.

The last time a Chinese foreign minister visited Australia was in 2017.

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