Oz not `starry-eyed` on China, focus on India

Australia`s centre-left Labor govt pledged to deepen its ties with Asian countries if re-elected.

Updated: Aug 16, 2010, 18:54 PM IST

Sydney: Australia`s centre-left Labor
government on Monday pledged to deepen its ties with Asian
countries if re-elected, but warned it would not be
"starry-eyed" about top trading partner China.

The foreign policy statement comes as Prime Minister
Julia Gillard leads opinion polls by the slimmest of margins
ahead of Saturday`s election at which conservative leader Tony
Abbott could end Labor`s hopes for a second term.

"The Gillard Labor government will build on the
momentum established over the past three years to add even
more depth to relationships with our key regional partners,"
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said in a statement.

Addressing what it has long described as the "Asia
Pacific century", the government said its relationship with
China was among the country`s most important.

But a Labor government would not overlook differences
with the Asian superpower which has raced to become the
country`s largest export market and two-way trading partner
and is driving demand for Australian commodities.

Ties with Beijing have been tested since Labor won
office in November 2007 by the arrest and jailing in Shanghai
of Australian mining executive Stern Hu and Canberra`s
decision to grant Uighur dissident Rebiya Kadeer a visa.

"Labor is clear-eyed, not starry-eyed, in our
assessment of China and our approach to the bilateral
relationship," Smith said.

"Labor is committed to a mature relationship with
China where any differences can be managed constructively," he
added.

On India, Australia`s fastest-growing trading partner,
Labor said it had placed that country at the forefront of
international partnerships.

"We will continue to take the relationship forward so
that it can realise its full potential," Smith said.

But he made no mention of selling uranium to the
nuclear power, which Labor has previously rejected until India
signs a global non-proliferation pact, but which the
opposition has pledged to do if Abbott wins office.

Abbott`s Liberal/National coalition has also vowed to
strengthen its links to India, the country`s eighth largest
trading partner, if elected as well as focus on ties with the
United States, Indonesia and Japan.

But the statement affirmed that Australia`s most
important strategic partnership remains with the US, which it
said remains the bedrock of defence security and strategic
arrangements.

Smith said Australia stood shoulder-to-shoulder with
the United States in Afghanistan, and had strengthened the
relationship despite pulling its combat force from Iraq
shortly after taking power.

PTI