Giant pandas stole the limelight yesterday as mainland and Australian leaders unveiled a series of initiatives aimed at strengthening their relationship after a meeting on the sidelines of the Apec summit. The mainland will donate a pair of giant pandas to the Adelaide Zoo as part of a research agreement between the two countries. It will be 'the first time pandas will live in a southern hemisphere country,' President Hu Jintao noted. Though winning less immediate applause, other important initiatives included an annual strategic dialogue mechanism, closer judicial co-operation and a multibillion-dollar natural gas deal. Mr Hu and Australian Prime Minister John Howard stressed the strength of the relationship between the two countries and expressed confidence in its long-term prospects. Mr Hu said the two countries shared 'broad common interests despite different national conditions'. Their relationship was important to 'the peace, stability, development and prosperity of the region and the world at large', he said. Mr Howard said it was 'a great relationship, in great shape', which encompassed 'stunning' economic growth and impressive community exchanges, as demonstrated by the 90,000 Chinese students studying in Australia every year. The mainland is set to become Australia's No1 trading partner this year, and is already its biggest source of foreign students. The strategic dialogue mechanism, which will allow the leaders of the two countries to regularly exchange views, was 'an instrument for further expanding the horizon of the relationship', Mr Howard said. The two countries signed six deals yesterday: two treaties on extradition and the transfer of sentenced prisoners; a memorandum of understanding on establishing a China-Australia joint CEO roundtable; a liquefied natural gas deal between PetroChina and Australia's Woodside Energy; an iron ore joint development deal between Ansteel and Australia's Gindalbie Metals; and the gift of the two giant pandas. The two countries also issued a joint statement on climate change and energy in which they agreed to continue joint development of clean-coal technologies and to co-operate in areas like coal mine methane recovery, energy efficiency, climate change science and coal mine safety. Mr Hu said China would support an Apec declaration on climate change but urged the declaration to recognise the UN framework as the primary model for international negotiations on the topic. He said 'common but differentiated responsibilities' should remain a tenet of any agreement. Amid regional worries about China's rise, Mr Howard said he strongly believed 'China's growth is not only good for China, but is good for the whole world'. He dismissed concerns the primary purpose of a meeting between Australia, the US and Japan tomorrow would be containing China's rise. The leaders ended the meeting with, what else, a bear hug.