Beijing extends invite to Australia’s trade minister during key talks
There is renewed hope Beijing’s diplomatic deep freeze is thawing after the Chinese government extended an olive branch to Canberra.
The trade minister will soon fly to China with his sights set on lobbying Beijing to unwind sanctions on $20bn of Australian exports.
China’s Commerce Minister, Wang Wentao, extended an invitation to Don Farrell during a virtual meeting of the trade ministers on Monday afternoon.
While the meeting did not result in a breakthrough, Senator Farrell said it marked “another important step in the stabilisation of Australia’s relations with China”.
“Minister Wang and I agreed to enhance dialogue at all levels, including between officials, as a pathway towards the timely and full resumption of trade,” Senator Farrell said in a statement after the meeting.
The talks were the first between Australian and Chinese trade ministers since 2019.
“I accepted an invitation from Minister Wang to travel to Beijing in the near future to continue our productive dialogue,” he added.
It will be the first trip to China by an Australian trade minister since Simon Birmingham’s visit to Shanghai in 2019.
The federal government is hopeful the thawing of diplomatic relations could lead to the unwinding of China’s sanctions on exports such as beef, wine, lobster and barley.
“We want both sides to benefit from that trade,” Senator Farrell said in his opening remarks.
“There are issues on which we disagree, but we should, where possible, address those issues through dialogue which I’m hopeful we can do today.”
But Mr Wang warned any disputes between Australia and China would not be resolved quickly.
“China will not make a trade off on principled issues,” he told Senator Farrell.
Relations between Canberra and Beijing have been in a diplomatic deep freeze since the then-Turnbull government blocked Huawei from its 5G rollout.
Since its election, the government has sought to repair relations with Australia’s top trading partner. It has since secured key meetings with high-level ministers, including talks between Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20.
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