Australia said that a Chinese firm can continue to lease the port of Darwin in the north of the country, the latest sign of the thaw in bilateral relations ahead of the expected visit to Beijing by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. 

The port was leased to China’s Landbridge Group Co. in 2015 for 99 years, but relations between the two nations nosedived after that, and Canberra announced in 2021 that the Department of Defence would probe the agreement and advise the government on what to do. Forcing the company to exit the lease was an option, but local media later reported that that review found no national security concerns. 

The government decided “it was not necessary to vary or cancel the lease” as “there is a robust regulatory system in place to manage risks to critical infrastructure,” according to a statement Friday from the Prime Minister’s office. “Monitoring of security arrangements around the Port of Darwin will continue. Australians can have confidence that their safety will not be compromised, while ensuring that Australia remains a competitive destination for foreign investment.”

Relations between Australia and China have been improving gradually since the election last year of the current government in Canberra, with both sides looking to heal what had become a long-festering diplomatic sore. China said in August it would lift tariffs on barley, last week released an imprisoned Australian journalist and this week signaled possible progress on resolving a dispute with Australia on punitive wine tariffs.  

The Australian government this week also announced it would end anti-dumping duties on Chinese exports of wind towers. Beijing has long complained about Australia’s use of anti-dumping tariffs against its exports and the Minister of Commerce said it welcomed that announcement.