(Adds details on trade pact; paragraphs 10-16)
SYDNEY, Nov 13 (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese held brief talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at a regional summit in Cambodia, Australian media reported on Sunday, raising expectations for a summit official with President Xi Jinping.
Relations between the countries have deteriorated in recent years, with China imposing sanctions on some Australian imports and reacting angrily to Canberra’s call for an international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said Albanese and Li spoke when they arrived at an event on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh .
The discussion comes amid speculation of a possible meeting between Albanese and Xi at a Group of 20 major economies summit in Indonesia on Monday
Albanese’s office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the report or what would be Albanese’s first meeting with Xi since becoming prime minister in May.
On Wednesday, the Australian leader said a meeting with Xi would be a positive development after years of strained relations.
The last summit meeting in 2019 saw Albanese predecessor Scott Morrison meet Xi at a G20 meeting, the Australian Foreign Office said.
Xi will attend the G20 meeting on the resort island of Bali, an adviser to Indonesian President Joko Widodo has said.
Last week, Albanese’s office announced that it would attend that meeting and a subsequent summit in Bangkok of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group.
Also on Sunday, Albanese said in a statement, negotiations concluded in Phnom Penh to upgrade the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA).
The pact covers improvements in e-commerce, competition, customs procedures and trade facilitation, trade in goods and rules of origin, he added.
“Today we open an ambitious new chapter for the growing economic relationship between ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand,” Albanese said.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the improved deal would strengthen economic and trade ties with ASEAN by reducing red tape and business costs.
“We now trade more with ASEAN in a week than we did in a year in the early 1970s,” Ardern, who was also in Cambodia for the summit, said in a statement.
The improved agreement is expected to be signed and enter into force in 2023, according to the statement.
In addition to Australia and New Zealand, the signatories of the pact, concluded for the first time in 2009, are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. (Reporting by Sam McKeith in Sydney; Editing by William Mallard and Clarence Fernandez)