China's Xi says ties with Australia moving in "right direction", state media reports

Illustration shows printed Chinese and Australian flags
Printed Chinese and Australian flags are seen in this illustration, July 21, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

SHANGHAI, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Thursday relations with Australia were moving in the right direction in the latest sign of an improvement in ties between the major trading partners.

Xi made his comments in a congratulatory message for Australia Day to Australian Governor-General David Hurley, the Xinhua state-run news agency reported.

Australia and China "have reviewed the past and looked to the future, making active efforts towards the right direction of improving and growing China-Australia ties", Xi said, according to Xinhua.

After some three years of tense relations over a range of issues including trade, signs have emerged recently that their ties are warming.

China put unofficial bans on Australian products from coal to wine in 2020, after Australia called for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 and put a 5G network ban on China's telecoms giant Huawei.

Their trade ministers have not met since then but Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong met her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, last month on the first visit to Beijing by an Australian minister since 2019.

Chinese President Xi Jinping met Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Indonesia in November signalling the beginning of a thaw.

In January, China granted permission for select companies to resume importing Australian coal.

Last week, Xinhua reported that Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao would meet his Australian counterpart, Don Farrell, via video "in the near future". It gave no date.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Editing by Robert Birsel

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