Optimism China might lift more export trade bans

Australia remains confident China might lift further tariffs on its products as Anthony Albanese prepares to visit Beijing.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt says the government is still working towards Beijing removing all remaining trade sanctions as tensions between the two nations thaw.

China has agreed to review its sanctions on Australian wine exports worth $1.2 billion, with the process expected to take five months.

“I would like to think that as each of these different commodities is resolved that we can move on to the next one,” Mr Watt told ABC radio on Monday.

“Representations have been made on matters like lobster, beef and sheep since we were able to get that agreement with China about wine, so I’m optimistic that we can get there and we’ll keep working hard until we do.”

The prime minister will visit China on Saturday, the first time an Australian leader has travelled there since 2016.

Tariffs were lifted from barley exports in August, which had been imposed in 2020 during the height of a diplomatic dispute between China and the government under former prime minister Scott Morrison.

Beijing imposed punitive trade bans on $20 billion worth of Australian products, which has been reduced to about $2 billion since the Albanese government won the federal election in 2022.

Australian Grape and Wine chief executive Lee McLean said if there was a way to expedite the review process on wine, that would be welcomed by industry.

“We’re really pleased that we’ve been able to reach this point with the Chinese government to get this review under way,” he told AAP.

But Mr McLean urged the nation to continue its trade diversification efforts, regardless of the improved relationship with China.

“We’ve got to make sure that we don’t treat a potential return to China as a silver bullet for the issues that are facing our industry,” he said.

“We really do need to keep working on building new markets right around the world.”

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the approach taken by Mr Morrison was not the right one.

“We’ve said for a long time we want a more stable relationship with China,” she told ABC radio.

“I don’t think it was good for the country, the very political domestic approach that Scott Morrison took.”

Senator Wong said the visit by Mr Albanese would be important.

“We know that there are things on which we will, we can co-operate,” she said.

“Part of what we have to do is continue to manage this relationship, including the differences we have wisely, part of that is engagement.”

The prime minister on Sunday said his visit would be about opening up engagement with China, but denied Australia would be there as a go-between for the US.

Nationals frontbencher Bridget McKenzie said the prime minister needed to prepare for difficult conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Is this going to be more than photo ops in front of the Forbidden Palace?” she said on Seven’s Sunrise program.

“This will be a test for the PM … is he actually going to sit down and tell President Xi the issues … whilst welcoming opening up of trade and a stabilisation of the relationship.”


Andrew Brown and Tess Ikonomou
(Australian Associated Press)


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