Has the big thaw begun? China’s foreign minister will visit Australia

Australia's wine and lobsters were just two exports China restricted when relations soured with the Morrison government. <i>Photo: Unsplash</i>

Australia's wine and lobsters were just two exports China restricted when relations soured with the Morrison government. Photo: Unsplash

China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang will visit Australia soon in a fresh sign of improved relations between the nations and the potential lifting of trade bans on Australian exports, Trade Minister Don Farrell says.

Speaking on Friday in Beijing, Senator Farrell said he had also invited his Chinese counterpart Wang Wentao to visit Australia.

“There is a good pattern there. The foreign minister is coming and so … can I formally invite you to come to Australia and in particular to come to Adelaide, in South Australia?” the SA senator said.

The South China Morning Post on Friday revealed Mr Qin’s expected July trip. The visit is yet to be formally announced by Beijing.

‘The process of stabilising’

Senator Farrell and Mr Wang met on Friday to discuss a years-long trade dispute that slapped restrictions on billions of dollars worth of Australian goods including barley, beef, wine, lobsters, coal and timber.

Senator Farrell said earlier he hoped to walk away with a pathway towards ending all remaining tariffs and trade barriers on Australian products.

“We’re here to continue the process of stabilising our trading relationship. There’s no better way to progress that dialogue than face-to-face meetings,” he said upon arrival.

Mr Wang told Senator Farrell that China and Australia were both “important countries in the Indo-Pacific” and it was “in our fundamental interests” to work together.

He said China noted Australia’s concerns over trade but improving the bilateral partnership would require a “joint effort”.

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang could be about signal the easing of restrictions on the imports of Australian goods. Photo: AP

Mr Wang said China was concerned that its businesses and products “be treated fairly and justly” by Australia.

“We do not have fundamental conflicts of interest,” Mr Wang said.

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

Earlier on Friday, Senator Farrell was given a surprise tour of Beijing’s Forbidden City by senior Chinese commerce ministry official, Peng Wei.

The opulent 15th-century palace is a World Heritage site and a source of immense national pride.

Peace through trade

Senator Farrell said a stable relationship between Canberra and Beijing, including through trade, would boost the prospect of regional peace.

“Nothing’s going to do more to achieve peace in our region than strong trading relationships between Australia and China,” he said.

Australia paused its World Trade Organisation dispute against China’s punitive tariffs on barley, in what the government called a sign of goodwill, as Beijing agreed to expedite its review of the imposition.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters in Sydney on Friday the dialogue with Australia’s major trading partner was welcome.

“Our major trading partner is important for jobs and for our economy.

“And I have said that you don’t achieve anything by having having no discussion.

“What we need is to develop understanding and dialogue … we’ll co-operate with China where we can, we will disagree where we must and will engage in our national interest.”

Senator Farrell also met with Baowu Steel after disembarking in Beijing on Thursday.

The state-owned steelmaker was one of the first companies to resume buying Australian coal earlier this year.

The Australian government then approved Baowu’s involvement in a $2 billion iron ore project in Western Australia with Rio Tinto.


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