Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is hailing trade ties with China but skirting sensitive political issues on the first day of a visit to his country's key trade partner.

In a speech Thursday in the financial hub of Shanghai, Turnbull praised a bilateral free trade agreement signed last year as offering important new opportunities for Australian exporters.

China absorbs about one-third of Australia's exports and China's slowing demand for iron ore, coal and other resources has taken a major toll on Australia's economy. Two-way trade between them totaled 150 billion Australian dollars ($115 billion) in the last financial year, down 6.3 percent.

Turbull made no mention of close-U.S. ally Australia's concerns about Chinese activities in the South China Sea that were recently criticized in an Australian government report.