April 4, 2013 - 11:27 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Prime Minister Julia Gillard has touted Australia's friendship with China on the eve of her visit to the regional powerhouse, saying only Labor has a plan to engage with fast growing Asian markets, The Australian reports.
Gillard, who will be among the first foreign leaders to meet the new China leadership headed by President Xi Jinping, also defended the government's economic record, particularly on debt and growth.
The PM said Australians can be proud of the country's low interest rates, inflation and unemployment rate as well as growth, which was stronger than many of its developed peers.
"It's hard to reconcile this Australia with either the economic cringe which discounts our national economic achievements, or the political negativity which denies them," she told a function on Thursday, April 4.
Gillard arrives in China on Friday for a six day visit - her second in two years. She takes with her the most senior Australian political delegation to ever visit China, including trade minister Craig Emerson, foreign minister Bob Carr, defense minister Stephen Smith and financial services minister Bill Shorten.
Gillard plans to promote trade and economic interest and share with the Chinese leadership perspectives on global and regional economic and security issues.
But she denied this had implications for Australia's long standing relationship with the U.S., which is sending marines to conduct exercises on Australian soil as part of a renewed focus on the Asia Pacific region.
"I don't view us as being in a position where the strong and growing relationship we have with China is somehow in contest, or in contrast, to the relationship we have with the United States of America," she told the Foreign Correspondents Association in Sydney. "For us, we will continue to do what we've done for some period of time - to attend to our friendship and alliance with the United States while growing our friendship with China."
China is Australia's number one trade partner and pivotal to Australia's success in engaging with a fast growing Asia region, which will experience the rise of an affluent middle class in the 21st century.
Gillard said Australia was already "pushing on an open door" that the government hopes will lead to more jobs, prosperity and productivity for Australians.
"But once we enter, everything that follows depends on our skill and ingenuity," she said. "Nothing is guaranteed to us - success is not pre-ordained."
Gillard said the federal election would be a test of which side of politics had a blueprint for Australia's future in Asia.