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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.

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