Australia's trade minister seeks to end trade curbs on China visit

Representational image. Reuters File

On Thursday, Australia’s trade minister travelled to Beijing, intending to persuade China to eliminate hefty tariffs on his country’s exports.

After years of strained commercial and political ties, trade minister Don Farrell expressed optimism for “unimpeded” trade with Australia’s largest trading partner.

“During my visit, I will be advocating strongly for the full resumption of unimpeded Australian exports to China — for all sectors,” he said in a statement, adding it would benefit exporters and producers in both countries.

According to Farrell, he will meet with Wang Wentao, China’s minister of commerce.

At the height of a contentious conflict with the previous conservative administration, China levied heavy tariffs on important Australian exports like barley, meat, and wine in 2020.

Additionally, it halted the importation of other important exports from Australia, such as coal.

Since Australia’s centre-left government adopted a less combative stance towards China after its election a year ago, the tense relations seem to have warmed up.

After an unofficial two-year embargo, China received its first cargo of Australian coal in February of this year, and commerce in other items looks to be about to resume.

“The Australian government is pleased there have been several positive trade developments, including the resumption of coal, cotton, and copper trade and China’s agreement to undertake an expedited review of duties on Australian barley,” Farrell said.

Even with the restrictions, two-way trade between the countries was worth Aus$287 billion (US$195 billion) last year.

Farrell said he would also raise “other issues of importance to Australians”, without giving details.

Canberra called last week for jailed Australian journalist Cheng Lei to be reunited with her family after 1,000 days in detention in China.

Cheng Lei, a former anchor at Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, disappeared on 13 August 2020, and was later charged with “supplying state secrets overseas”.

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