SYDNEY, Australia (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced on Sunday that he will set the date of a China trip at an "appropriate" time. He also stressed the importance bilateral trade while expressing concern about a detained Australian journalist in Beijing.
The Australian centre-left Labor Government is negotiating a trip by Albanese in China to help end the unofficial Chinese tariffs and bans on certain Australian products that were imposed in 2020, during a time of low diplomatic relations.
Albanese, when asked about the exact date of the visit, said that "we will finalise it at the appropriate time". He added that his next trip overseas would be to attend the NATO summit taking place in Vilnius in Lithuania in July.
Albanese declined to comment on whether Australians held in China will be released before a visit. However, he reiterated his call for the release Australian journalist Cheng Lei who has been detained since September 2020 in Beijing.
According to an official transcript, he stated on Sky News TV that "Cheng Lei... should be freed and allowed to return to Australia."
Albanese said that Australia would continue to push for the removal of all barriers to trade between "two great countries".
He said: "It is in Australia's best interest to export goods to China. But it is also in China's best interest to receive these exports."
In May, China announced that it would resume the import of Australian timber a few days after Trade Minister Don Farrell had returned from his trip to Beijing. In December, after a visit by Foreign minister Penny Wong, coal shipments resumed a few weeks later.