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China wants to expand e-commerce trade with Australia

China has declared it wants to level the playing field for Australian and Chinese companies selling products online, on the eve of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's arrival to Australia.

In a move that surprised the Australian business community in China, Chinese authorities appeared on Tuesday to have stepped back from tighter regulation of the booming online trade in Australian vitamins and baby food products.

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A statement issued by China's Ministry of Commerce said low-value products imported for personal use through e-commerce would be considered as a separate category. This is seen to remove labelling and registration requirements.

The move sent the shares of big Australian players rocketing with Blackmores (up 13.3 per cent), Bellamy's (up 14.66 per cent) and a2 Milk (up 4.88 per cent) all enjoying healthy gains.

China's vice minister for foreign affairs, Zheng Zeguang, said in Beijing on Tuesday that China was "committed to a greater level playing field and promoting the sound development of retail imports in cross-border e-commerce".

He noted both China and Australia had seen rapid development in e-commerce.

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"This is new momentum and we should well utilise and better guide it," he said.

"Australian friends are very keen about this field and so are the Chinese business community.We are willing to expand cooperation with Australian companies in cross-border e-commerce," he said.

Blackmores and Bellamy's are just two of the household Australian brands that saw their sales soar after finding popularity with Chinese consumers through online sales channels. Another Australian brand, Swisse, was purchased by a Chinese company on the back of its e-commerce success in China.

Recently though, tighter application of Chinese customs regulations had cast a shadow on the companies sales to Chinese consumers.

Eyeing Australia

On the Chinese side, online trading giant Alibaba has recently established in Melbourne and expressed its desire to expand in Australia. Aldi this month said it would start selling Australian produce into China through Alibab's Tmall platform.

Technology, innovation, joint research centres and technology exchanges will be a new focus of Mr Li's visit to Australia, Mr Zheng said.

We are willing to expand cooperation with Australian companies in cross-border e-commerce.

China's vice minister for foreign affairs Zheng Zeguang

The Free Trade Agreement, and Australian participation in China's ambitious "Belt and Road" plan - which provides Chinese financial backing for construction and infrastructure projects on key trade routes to Europe and by sea to Africa and potentially northern Australia, will also be discussed.

Australia has been a leader among western countries in its economic cooperation with China, he said.

But warmer words and the phrase "good friend" were used to describe New Zealand, where Mr Li will also visit to discuss upgrading the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement to cover e-commerce.

Asked to respond to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's recent Singapore speech in which she chided China for being a non-democracy, Mr Zheng said the relationship between Australia and China over time had allowed the two countries to "transcend and go beyond our ideological differences" to concentrate on cooperation.

Mr Zheng said he hoped people would abandon "ideological biases, view China in the right light, and continue to go beyond our differences and constructively manage the problems in our relationship."