China's foreign minister to visit Australia, New Zealand next week

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends a press conference on the sidelines of the NPC, in Beijing

By Renju Jose

SYDNEY (Reuters) -China's top diplomat, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, will visit Australia and New Zealand next week, officials from both countries said on Thursday.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese welcomed the visit, which comes days after China hinted it was close to removing restrictions on Australian wine, first imposed during a diplomatic spat in 2020.

"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."

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

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

China responded by imposing tariffs on several Australian commodities from late 2020. 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.

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.

Wang will also visit New Zealand, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said later on Thursday, calling the relationship one of New Zealand's "most important and complex."

The ministers will also discuss regional and global issues, including the importance of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

($1 = 1.5103 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Stephen Coates, Lincoln Feast and Michael Perry)