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US vice president on way to Australia for first official visit

CANBERRA, April 21, 2017 (BSS/XINHUA) -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is en route to Australia for the first official visit of a representative of President Donald Trump's administration.

He is expected to arrive in Sdyney on Friday evening.

Pence's visit comes at the end of an extensive tour of Asia where regional security concerns and trade have been top of the agenda.

James Carouso, the acting U.S. ambassador to Australia, said the visit underlined the importance of the Australian-U.S. alliance.

"His purpose is basically to meet with our allies and close partners in the region as part of the new administration reaching out and getting the benefit of the views and insight of our partners about the region," Carouso told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Friday.

He said that discussions on trade barriers between Australia and the United States would be an important aspect of the visit.

"They are pretty few and specific. Australia has certain restrictions on things like pork, the U.S. has other restrictions on certain agricultural imports from Australia," Carouso said.

"I think the 'big thing' is if we could talk about taxes, and how we each tax each other's companies that might be useful."

The two countries have been at odd with the issue of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) since President Trump dumped the free trade treaty signed by the previous U.S. administration and 11 other Asia-Pacific nations including Australia.

During his visit, Pence is expected to discuss a bilateral free trade agreement signed 12 years ago, and other investment opportunities with Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steve Ciobo.

Pence is well regarded as the "steady hand" of the Trump administration.

It is widely expected by local media that his visit would help mend the relationship between the United States and Australia rocked by President Trump who cut short his first leaders call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in January.

Lowy Institute for International Policy executive director Michael Fullilove told the Australian Associated Press that Pence's role is to be an "instrument of reassurance" for allies like Australia in terms of Trump's intentions for U.S. trade relations as well as the dilemmas posed by the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and the war in Syria.