Despite concerns Australia’s planned military upscaling could dampen any trade or diplomatic breakthrough with China, the latest minister to visit Beijing says it was “not mentioned” during the meeting.
Instead, a “successful” meeting between Trade Minister Don Farrell and his Beijing counterpart Wang Wentao last week could ensure Australian barley is back in the Chinese market within “weeks”.
Senator Farrell visited Beijing last week for the first in-person trade ministers’ meeting since 2019 and since Beijing slapped sanctions on Australian exports like barley and wine.
The senator said the barley issue was expected to be resolved “within the next month or two”, and if it went Australia’s way the same process would be applied to winding back tariffs on Australian wine.
“We have set up the process now for dealing with all of these issues. We didn’t have a process before this – we have now got one,” he told ABC News.
“I believe that there’s a willingness on the part of the Chinese government to now resolve these trade impediments.”
So hopeful is Senator Farrell of a resolution that he has invited Mr Wang to visit Australia.
Improvements to the trading relationship come as military ties are strained after Beijing last month warned Australia to avoid “hyping up the ‘China threat’ narrative”.
Last month’s release of the Defence Strategic Review – which singled out China’s military buildup as a reason to improve Australia’s own posture – prompted Beijing to state it “did not pose a challenge”.
“We hope certain countries will not use China as an excuse for military buildup and will refrain from hyping up the ‘China threat’ narrative,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at the time.
Senator Farrell said the issues weren’t raised with him.
“National security is the most important job of a federal government,” he told Channel 9.
“We don’t back away from any of the decisions that we’ve made to secure our national security, but to be honest, those issues were not raised at any of the meetings I attended.
“We make decisions based on our own national interests, but we’ll press on with resolving our trade issues.”