Australia, China intensify talks on easing trade ban

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CANBERRA (AAP) By Dr. Majid Khan -A senior Australian official met with Chinese officials in Beijing to discuss ongoing multi-billion dollar trade sanctions in the latest sign of a diplomatic thaw.

Beijing has imposed unofficial sanctions on Australian products such as wine, barley and meat.

Trade Secretary Don Farrell says things are going well, but it will take time for things to improve.

“It’s going to take time to turn this ship around, and we’re working hard,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.

However, due to the informal nature of sanctions, there are complex issues related to trade barriers. “Each product is different. Some are about tariffs, some are about applicable regulations,” said Senator Farrell.

The talks pave the way for Senator Farrell to head to Beijing in the coming weeks, as Australia awaits major developments in its trade dispute.

When we met in person last month, the Commerce Minister said he had accepted an invitation from his Chinese counterpart to travel to China, but no date was set.

“We are not far apart. Negotiations are progressing well,” said Senator Farrell.

“I don’t want to prejudge how they end up, but all the news back from China is very positive.”

According to the South China Morning Post, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese may visit China in October or November to mark the 50th anniversary of Gough Whitlam’s visit.

Mr Whitlam was the first Australian prime minister to lead a labor delegation to China in 1971, when the McMahon government refused to establish diplomatic ties.

The meeting of trade representatives came just days after Undersecretary of Commerce Tim Ayers returned from China.

At the meeting, Senator Ayers advocated a “timely and full resumption of trade” with China, which he believed would benefit both countries. Australian coal shipments to China have started to recover in recent months.

Senator Ayers said Australia was moving towards a more stable relationship but hoped for more progress.

“I always count the success of these things in terms of the number of container loads delivered to Chinese ports rather than the actual outcome of the debate,” he said.

Beijing and Canberra also received a World Trade Organization report on Australia’s complaints about Chinese barley tariffs.

Both parties have three weeks to settle the dispute before the report is circulated to all her WTO members. China has consistently said Australia needs to show goodwill and withdraw its WTO complaints to strengthen ties.

Australia has indicated it intends to drop the lawsuit, but wants to take important steps on trade barriers before it.