China-Australia Trade Ministers Meet 02/06 06:06
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Australian and Chinese trade ministers held
their first bilateral meeting in three years Monday as Australia urges China to
lift official and unofficial barriers that are costing exporters 20 billion
Australian dollars ($14 billion) a year.
China has thawed its diplomatic freeze on Australia since Prime Minister
Anthony Albanese's center-left Labor Party was elected in May for the first
time in nine years.
Albanese has urged China to demonstrate good will to his administration by
lifting trade restrictions on Australian exports including wine, coal, beef,
seafood, barley and wood.
Trade Minister Don Farrell said that behind closed doors, he and his Chinese
counterpart Wang Wentao had agreed to enhance dialogue at all levels as a
pathway "towards the timely and full resumption of trade."
"Our discussion covered a range of trade and investment issues, including
the need for resumption of unimpeded trade for Australian exporters so that
Chinese consumers can continue to benefit from high quality Australian
products," Farrell said in a statement after the teleconference meeting from
Australia's Parliament House.
During the introductory stage of the meeting that was open to the media,
Wang invited Farrell to meet in China.
"I'm looking forward to open and candid exchanges of views with you," Wang
told Farrell. "I'm also very much happy to extend an invitation to you to visit
China at a time convenient to you. And I believe that your next trip to China
will leave you with a different impression."
Farrell accepted the invitation but did not nominate a date.
"The outcomes of our discussions have the potential to be of great benefit
to both of our countries, and both of our consumers," Farrell said.
Wang said the priority of the meeting should be to build mutual trust.
"I wish to stress we will face up to the issues, but at the same time this
meeting cannot resolve all of these issues," Wang said.
Although Wang noted that while common ground should be sought, some issues
"cannot be resolved."
"China will not make a trade-off on principled issues," Wang said.
The trade barriers are widely regarded as punishment for the previous
Australian government passing laws that ban covert foreign interference in
domestic politics, for barring Chinese-owned telecommunications giant Huawei
from rolling out Australia's 5G network due to security concerns and for
calling for an independent investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Albanese raised his concerns about trade "blockages" in November when he
took part in the first formal bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi
Jinping by an Australian government leader since 2016.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong in December became the first Australian foreign
minister to visit China in four years.
The first shipments of Australian coal to China since Beijing imposed an
unofficial ban on the commodity 2 1/2 years ago were due to arrive in the
country this week in the first clear sign Xi's regime will roll back some
sanctions on Australian exports, The Australian Financial Review reported.