CANBERRA, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Australian opposition's foreign affairs spokesperson on Monday called for the country to "engage better with China."
Penny Wong, an Australian Labor Party (ALP) Senator of Malaysian descendant, said in a speech at an Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA) conference that increasing trade with China was the surest way to guarantee Australia's position as a top 20 global economy in the future.
"If we want to get it right with Asia, we need to get it right with China," Wong said.
"There is no overarching simple answer to how we engage with China: we constantly need to steer through the intersecting dimensions of issues and opportunities."
"We (must) work with China in a regional framework, recognizing that this is the region in which we both live, and the importance of the rules based order that has underpinned stability and prosperity to the benefit of both our nations, and the region."
China is Australia's largest two-way trading partner with trade between the nations worth more than 100 billion U.S. dollars annually, according to Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
Wong acknowledged that "Australia doesn't always know how to deal with China," imploring the Australian government to "bring the various stands of our relationship closer together" and engage with China on the Belt and Road Initiative.
Approaching the initiative solely in terms of its strategic implications risks Australia missing out on its potential, and a purely economic approach ignores Australia's own strategic interests, she said.
The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, aims to revive the ancient trade routes to enhance trade, infrastructure and people-to-people connections between Asia, Europe and Africa.
For this reason, Labor has indicated an open mind on collaboration on the initiative, she said. "We would examine proposals on a case-by-case basis, through the lens of our national interests."
Earlier on Monday, Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop addressed the conference, saying that according to forecasts Indonesia, Pakistan and Thailand will all have larger economies than Australia by 2030.