Mining boom still on, Abbott tells China
In his first meeting with his Chinese counterpart last night, Tony Abbott sought to quash perceptions of an end to the mining boom.
Continuing his rapid immersion in international diplomacy, the Prime Minister told President Xi Jinping that Australia owed much of its prosperity to the "rapidly growing trade relations" with China.
"China's strength, China's growing strength is a benefit to the world, not a challenge," Mr Abbott said.
"We have a strong relationship and it's my fervent hope we can make it even stronger in the months and years ahead."
The two leaders met just hours after the PM arrived in Bali for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit.
It is understood Mr Abbott used the meeting to state his enthusiasm for a free-trade agreement between Australia and China, which Trade Minister Andrew Robb has been given three years to conclude.
Mr Xi congratulated Mr Abbott on his election victory and said China was ready to work with Australia.
"China and Australia entering into closer co-operation not only serves common interests, but will also add positive attitude to the region and also peace and development of the whole world," the President said.
Talks on a China-Australia FTA started in 2005 but have advanced at a glacial pace.
After the US shutdown grounded President Barack Obama in Washington, Mr Xi has become the undisputed star act at APEC.
Like the US, which under the Obama administration announced a "pivot" towards Asia in foreign policy, China is keen to expand its influence in South East Asia.
Mr Xi has announced tens of billions of dollars in regional investment and proposed setting up an Asian investment bank to support "connectivity" among Asian countries.
Under the Gillard and Rudd Labor governments, Australia increased its regional defence ties with the US, which caused some consternation in Beijing.
Under Mr Xi, who became President in March, China has stepped up its regional engagement. This has been interpreted as a move to counter America's perceived China containment strategy.
For example, last week Mr Xi and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono upgraded their countries' relationship on defence and trade. As well as ambitions for enhanced maritime co-operation, China and Indonesia said they would work together in aerospace monitoring and satellite launches.
Mr Abbott is keen to use the APEC summit to meet as many regional leaders as possible.
A bilateral meeting had been scheduled with Mr Obama for tomorrow but US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to step in.
"Economic engagement with our region is a priority for the Government and APEC is the leading regional forum for promoting trade liberalisation and economic integration," Mr Abbott said.
APEC's 21 member economies represent 56 per cent of the world's GDP and $437.8 billion, or more than 70 per cent, of Australia's trade in goods and services.
Later this week, Mr Abbott flies to Brunei for the eighth annual East Asia Summit of the 10-member countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, which includes China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the US.
Three activists caused a security embarrassment yesterday when they scaled the walls of Australia's consulate in Bali to highlight the plight of political protesters in the disputed Papua province.
The West Papuan students clambered into the Denpasar consulate early in the morning despite the tight security. The trio later presented a letter to Consul-General Brett Farmer asking Mr Abbott to pressure Jakarta to free more than 50 political prisoners.