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Chinese premier urges Australia to put aside differences

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Li Qiang promises more pandas

Melbourne, June 16: Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s visit to Australia on Sunday focused on positive aspects of the bilateral relationship including shared giant pandas and a rebounding wine trade as he promised a new breeding pair of the rare bears and urged both countries to put aside their differences.
China’s most powerful leader after President Xi Jinping arrived late Saturday in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia state, which has produced most of the Australian wine entering China since crippling tariffs were lifted in March that had effectively ended a 1.2 billion Australian dollar ($790 million) a year trade since 2020.
Li visited Adelaide Zoo, which has been home to China-born giant pandas Wang Wang and Fu Ni since 2009, before he was to have lunch at a restaurant at Adelaide winery Penfolds Magill Estate.
He announced that the zoo would be loaned another two pandas after the pair are due to return to China in November.
“China will soon provide another pair of pandas that are equally beautiful, lively, cute and younger to the Adelaide Zoo, and continue the cooperation on giant pandas between China and Australia,” Li said in Mandarin, adding that zoo staff would be invited to “pick a pair.”
Li was impressed by the 18-year-old male Wang Wang’s appetite and indifference to his high-ranking visitors. “The panda is very obsessed with eating and doesn’t pay attention to us even when we are the people from its hometown visiting,” Li said at the panda enclosure.
“It has completely treated here as its second hometown,” Li said. “Very pretty, adorable, with charming naivety.” The pair are the only pandas in the Southern Hemisphere and failed to produce offspring in Australia.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong thanked Li for ensuring that pandas would remain the zoo’s star attraction.
“It’s good for the economy, it’s good for South Australian jobs, it’s good for tourism, and it is a signal of goodwill, and we thank you,” Wong said.
Li’s visit is the first to Australia by a Chinese premier in seven years and marks an improvement in relations since Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s center-left Labor Party was elected in 2022.
Li noted that Albanese in November was the first Australian prime minister to visit China since 2016. (AP)

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