Australia open to ‘off-ramps’ talks with China to fix long-standing trade spat without WTO arbitration
- Trade Minister Don Farrell said Australia is willing to talk to Beijing instead of forcing a World Trade Organization (WTO) decision on their current trade disputes
- Australia and China have been locked in a trade dispute since 2020, with sanctions imposed on a range of Australian exports including meat, coal, barley and wine
Australia’s government is open to discussing ways to avoid World Trade Organization (WTO) arbitration of its trade dispute with China, ahead of a meeting between Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and President Xi Jinping.
However, the trade minister said no matter what happens at the WTO, Australian businesses were looking at “minimising risk exposure” by diversifying away from the Chinese market.
“As we have discovered, over-reliance on any single trading partner comes with significant risks,” Farrell said in his speech.
“That’s why trade diversification is the central plank of the government’s trade policy strategy.”
Australia and China have been locked in a trade dispute since 2020. Following a speech by then-prime minister Scott Morrison calling for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus in April that year, China imposed trade sanctions on a range of Australian exports including meat, coal, barley and wine.
More than two years later, the vast majority of sanctions remain in place and the Australian government has escalated their concerns to the WTO.
Any major warming of relations would require the restoration of full trade relations, Albanese has said.
It was the first face-to-face meeting between an Australian leader and a top Chinese official since 2019.
Albanese said a meeting with Xi was “not locked in at this point in time.” But China lifting economic sanctions was the first priority in returning to normal relations, he said.
“They’re not in Australia’s interests, of the wine industry, the meat industry and other industries where sanctions have been placed on. But it’s also not in the interests of China,” Albanese told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“This is a counterproductive measure.”
And after arriving in Bali in Indonesia for a meeting of the Group of 20 (G20) leaders on Monday, Albanese said he will meet Xi on Tuesday.
“Australia will put forward our own position. I look forward to having a constructive discussion with President Xi [on Tuesday],” Albanese told media.
Additional reporting by Associated Press, Reuters