Australia trade minister to ask China to lift barriers, query Wang sentence

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Written By Pinang Driod

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Australia’s Trade Minister Don Farrell attends a press conference following a meeting with Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, in Beijing, China May 12, 2023. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Pool/File Photo

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia’s trade minister said on Tuesday he would meet his Chinese counterpart at a World Trade Organization conference in Abu Dhabi this month and push for the removal of restrictions on imported Australian wine, lobsters and meat.

Don Farrell also told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) he would talk to Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao about the suspended death sentence given to Australian writer Yang Hengjun this month.

Farrell said the Australian government was “appalled” by the conviction and sentence over espionage charges but that it should not derail relations between the two countries.

Beijing has removed most of the trade barriers it imposed on Australian goods after Canberra called for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19. Restrictions remain only on wine, lobsters and meat from a small group of abattoirs.

“The Australian Government continues to press for the removal of all remaining trade impediments affecting Australian exports to China,” Farrell said in a statement.

“I look forward to continuing constructive dialogue with my Chinese counterpart, Minister Wang Wentao, at the World Trade Organization conference this month.”

The WTO meeting in Abu Dhabi in the united Arab Emirates takes place from Feb. 26-29.

Farrell told the ABC that if China does not remove its tariffs on Australian wine by March 31, when a review of them by Beijing is due to end, Canberra will renew its challenge against them at the WTO.

“We will immediately resume our World Trade Organization dispute, and we’ve made that very clear to the Chinese authorities,” he said.

On Yang, Farrell told the ABC: “The Australian government was appalled by the conviction and the penalty of Mr Yang, but we have embarked upon a project process of stabilising our relationship with the Chinese government. And we will continue that process.”

Farrell’s office did not comment further.

Calls to China’s commerce ministry and foreign ministry went unanswered as China is off for the Lunar New Year holiday.

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