China's Premier Li Qiang to visit Australia this week

French Foreign Minister Sejourne visits Beijing

By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) -China's Li Qiang will arrive in Australia on Saturday, the first visit by a Chinese premier since 2017, in a sign of improving ties, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday.

During the four-day visit Li will visit the city of Adelaide city, the capital Canberra, and Australia's mining state Western Australia.

Both leaders will meet with Australian and Chinese business leaders at a roundtable in Western Australia, Albanese said at a media briefing in Canberra.

China is Australia's largest trading partner, with Australian resources and energy exports dominating trade flow.

Australia is the biggest supplier of iron ore to China and China has been an investor in Australian mining projects, though some recent Chinese investment in critical minerals has been blocked by Australia on national interest grounds.

Albanese said foreign investment has a role to play in Australia and is considered on a case by case basis.

"Chinese engagement, including with the resources sector, has been important for growth," he said.

China imposed trade restrictions on a raft of Australian agricultural and mineral products during a diplomatic dispute in 2020, which has now largely eased.

Albanese said he would like to see the remaining Chinese trade impediments on lobsters and seafood removed.

In his meeting with Li next week in Canberra, Albanese will raise the case of Australian writer Yang Hengjun who was given a suspended death sentence on espionage charges in February, as well as an incident last month where a Chinese military jet dropped flares near an Australian defence helicopter, which Albanese said "was dangerous and should never had happened".

"Welcoming the Chinese premier to our shores is an opportunity for Australia to advance our interests by demonstrating our national values, our people's qualities and our economy's strengths," he said.

"Australia continues to pursue a stable and direct relationship with China, with dialogue at its core."

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; editing by Shri Navaratnam, Rashmi Aich and Michael Perry)