* China Premier Li Keqiang arrives for 4-day visit
* First visit by sitting China premier in 11 years
* Countries expected to sign deals on beef exports, energy,
* Australia keen to boost beef exports in wake of China ban
on Brazilian imports
(Adds further comments from Chinese premier)
By Colin Packham
SYDNEY, March 23 Australia and China are
expected to sign new bilateral agreements on beef exports,
energy and security during a four-day visit by Chinese Premier
Li Keqiang that began on Thursday.
Li, the first sitting Chinese premier to visit Australia in
11 years, was welcomed to parliament in Canberra by Prime
Minister Malcolm Turnbull amid extra security in the capital in
the wake of an attack outside Britain's parliament by a
suspected Islamist-inspired attacker.
Australia is seeking to take advantage of China's decision
earlier this week to suspend meat imports from Brazil, the
world's biggest exporter of beef and poultry, due to a scandal
over sales of rotten and salmonella-tainted meats.
Australia, however, may have little scope to increase meat
exports as its cattle herd is languishing near a two-decade low.
Graziers culled cattle in record numbers following a drought
induced by an unusually strong El Nino weather system between
2014 and 2016.
Beef is among Australian agriculture exports to China that
were worth more than A$8 billon ($6.14 billion) last year. They
have been propelled by the wide-ranging China-Australia Free
Trade Agreement signed in 2015, cementing China's position as
Australia's largest trading partner.
"China must feed their nation but has 7 percent of arable
land. Australia is seizing the opportunity to provide the
high-quality, safe food," Turnbull said in a speech in Canberra.
During his visit, Li will meet Australian business leaders
at trade forums and attend an Australian Rules Football League
match in Sydney before heading to New Zealand for two days.
Turnbull said he will also seek to progress a possible
regional trade agreement as Australia seeks to minimise the
impact of President Donald Trump pulling the United States out
of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in January, effectively killing
the accord in its current form.
While Trump has advocated an "America First" approach, China
has signalled its desire to play a bigger international role,
particularly in promoting free trade, a stance reinforced by Li.
"We believe that to resolve trade imbalances we need to
continue to expand trade. That is the solution. We cannot close
our doors," Li said in Canberra.
China's Foreign Ministry later cited Li as telling Turnbull
that China will continue to open up and work with Australia to
send "positive signals" about promoting trade liberalisation and
protecting the current global trading system.
Li is expected to encourage Australia to sign up for China's
New Silk Road initiative but an agreement is unlikely during
his visit, Reuters reported earlier this week.
The plan, officially called the One Belt, One Road, or OBOR,
initiative, is a signature foreign and economic policy of
Chinese President Xi Jinping, envisioning massive infrastructure
spending to link China to Asia and beyond.
Regional security will also be discussed as Australia, which
has supported U.S.-led freedom of navigation activities in the
region, seeks to reduce tensions in the South China Sea.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through
which about $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year. Brunei,
Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims
to parts of the sea.
($1 = 1.3033 Australian dollars)
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by
Simon Cameron-Moore and Christian Schmollinger)