China-Australia relations

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to visit China to improve trade relations

Australian exporters have complained of delays and extra scrutiny at Chinese customs due to frosty ties

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2018, 12:13pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2018, 7:42pm

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will travel to China later this year to smooth over bumpy diplomatic ties that have now developed into trade problems for some of Australia’s biggest wine and drink exporters, Fairfax Media reported.

Relations between the two trade partners have cooled significantly in recent months, after Turnbull’s conservative coalition government proposed a bill to limit foreign influence in Australia, including political donations, but which Beijing has interpreted as “anti-China”.

No dates were immediately available for Turnbull’s trip.

Several Australian businesses that export to China have complained that the cool diplomatic ties have spilled over into business, with delays and extra scrutiny being applied at customs and distribution.

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Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates Ltd – the world’s largest listed winemaker and owner of the Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Rosemount labels – has reported unusual delays of its exports hitting Chinese shelves.

Several unidentified Australian business owners who operate in China said that Chinese authorities had been unfairly targeting Australian products.

Trade Minister Steven Ciobo is already in Shanghai on a trade mission, the first visit by an Australian minister this year, but said there was “limited scope” to resolve issues involving Australian businesses.

“We do have irritants from time to time, but you know what? We have irritants pretty much in every relationship that we have globally,” Ciobo said on Friday.

“So there’s nothing unique about that. We talk through it, we work through it in a constructive way for the mutual benefit of both China and Australia.”

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His visit is restricted to Shanghai, which has raised concerns over how he can intervene in the trade issue without meeting senior government officials, who are based in Beijing.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will meet her Chinese counterpart next week.