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‘Momentum’ on China trade bans: Minister

Trade Minister Don Farrell met Minister Wang Wentao at the Joint Ministerial Economic Commission meeting at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Picture: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Trade Minister Don Farrell met Minister Wang Wentao at the Joint Ministerial Economic Commission meeting at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Picture: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Australia’s trade Minister is returning home after a short trip to China, where he advocated for continued efforts to resolve trade bans.

Don Farrell held talks with China’s commerce Minister Wang Wentao on Friday night, where he says the pair agreed to “step up” dialogue.

Tariffs imposed on Australian goods, including barley, wine and beef, remain in place.

Speaking at a press conference after the talks, Mr Farrell said there was “positive momentum” in the meeting, but acknowledged more work needed to be done.

“We made the decision on coming to Government 12 months ago we wanted to stabilise our relationship with the Chinese Government and to get our relationship back on track and to lift all these trade impediments,” he said.

Trade Minister Don Farrell met Minister Wang Wentao at the Joint Ministerial Economic Commission meeting at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Picture: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Trade Minister Don Farrell met Minister Wang Wentao at the Joint Ministerial Economic Commission meeting at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Picture: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“This is just another step in the road … I’m very confident that as a result of this face-to-face discussion today that we are well on track to get a stable, normal relationship with China.

“The trade impediments didn’t occur overnight and they’re not going to be resolved overnight.”

He said Wang reassured him that a recent agreement remains “on track” to end sanctions on $1.2 billion worth of barley exports.

“The wine dispute”, he said, would hopefully follow the same process.

Earlier, it was revealed China’s Foreign Minister Qin Jang plans to visit Australia in July following a meeting with Foreign Minister Penny Wong last December.

Mr Farrell pushed for progress on ending Chinese tariffs on Australian goods. Picture: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Mr Farrell pushed for progress on ending Chinese tariffs on Australian goods. Picture: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Punishing tariffs have badly hurt wine, barley and other exports from Australia, part of a campaign of economic sanctions over anti-foreign interference efforts, pushback to the Huawei 5G ban and Australia’s calls for an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tariffs caused exports to plummet while producers searched for new markets.

Mr Wang welcomed “positive progress” after years of escalating tensions.

“China and Australia are important countries in the Asia Pacific. We do not have fundamental conflicts of interest,” he said.

“We need to see our differences and divergence in perspective, improve and maintain our bilateral economic relations.

“This is in our fundamental interests.”

The Minister said he was very privileged to be given the special tour of the Forbidden City in Beijing as a guest of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Credit: DFAT Michael Godfrey
The Minister said he was very privileged to be given the special tour of the Forbidden City in Beijing as a guest of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Credit: DFAT Michael Godfrey

Ahead of the trip, Mr Farrell played down expectations of a breakthrough in the China-Australia relationship, saying that while he would be “advocating strongly” for the full resumption of unimpeded Australian exports, he was hoping to see progress.

“Since February, we've made progress on a range of products that includes coal, cotton, and other products. And, of course, we’re making progress in terms of the issue of barley, but there are outstanding issues that are remaining,” he said on May 11.

“My job is to keep the process going, keep the pressure on to resolve it.”