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Treasurer Jim Chalmers meets his Chinese counterpart at G20 summit

Treasurer Jim Chalmers says the government is making meaningful changes to the nation's tax base.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers says the government is making meaningful changes to the nation's tax base. Photo: AAP

Jim Chalmers has become the first Australian treasurer in four years to meet with his Chinese counterpart, marking a historic moment for both nations.

Dr Chalmers seized the opportunity to meet China’s Finance Minister Liu Kun in India on the sidelines of a G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors.

It marked the first meeting between an Australian treasurer and a Chinese finance minister since June 2019.

The treasurer, who described the conversation as friendly and free-flowing, said the pair discussed the stabilising Chinese-Australian diplomatic relationship.

Dr Chalmers raised China’s trade restrictions with Minister Kun and said the Australian government would like the issue resolved before Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visits Beijing.

China slapped trade sanctions on $20 billion worth of Australian products at the height of a diplomatic spat in 2020, although it has since wound back restrictions on timber and coal imports.

“The Albanese government has made it very clear that whilst we don’t need to pretend away the differences we have with China and with our ministerial counterparts we are much more likely to stabilise this key relationship with engagement and dialogue,” Dr Chalmers told ABC TV’s 7.30.

“We’ve been very clear publicly and privately … that we consider it to be in the interests of both countries for those trade restrictions to be lifted.

“We’d like to see some progress there in advance of a prime ministerial visit.”

Dr Chalmers said Minister Kun agreed to speak to his ministerial colleagues about the restrictions.

Going forward, the Treasurer wants the Australia-China relationship managed in a pragmatic way.

“Recognising that we have differences … but overwhelmingly this is a trading relationship and an economic relationship that serves both countries very well,” he said.

“So the overwhelming tenor of the conversation was a friendly, constructive conversation between two countries who are very important to each other.”

Dr Chalmers also raised his “deep concern” about two Australians detained in China, writer Yang Hengjun and journalist Cheng Lei.

The pair also discussed grim global and domestic economic forecasts as the world grapples with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s no use pretending otherwise,” Dr Chalmers said.

“If the Chinese indicators are weak, if they’re softer than we anticipate, then obviously that has implications and consequences for us and so we’re monitoring that very closely.”

-AAP

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