Australia, China foreign ministers to meet at G-20 to reset ties

BALI (Bloomberg): The foreign ministers of Australia and China will meet for the first time in almost three years as the two nations try to reset a relationship that has often been marked by diplomatic tensions and economic tariffs.

The two ministers will have bilateral talks at the Group of 20 meeting in Bali, China’s foreign ministry said Thursday (July 7). News of the meeting is the latest sign of a thaw in ties between the two countries.

"We believe it would be in China and Australia’s interest for this relationship to be stabilised,” Foreign Minister Penny Wong(pic) told reporters earlier in Bali, where she and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi are attending the G-20 meeting. "Australian ministers remain open to engage.”

Relations between Australia and China deteriorated over the past five or so years, with rising tensions and bilateral criticism culminating in China imposing tariffs on exports of wine and barley in 2020 and blocking trade in other goods. However in the six weeks since the election of a new government in Canberra, both sides have been trying to repair ties.

"The recent years in our relationship has been a difficult period,” Chinese Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian said last month. However, the election "has provided us with an opportunity of possible improvement of China-Australia bilateral relations.”

A meeting between Wong and Wang would be first time the nation’s foreign ministers have met since mid-2019. After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Australia’s request in 2020 that China allow inspections to determine the origin of the virus enraged the Chinese government, which responded with tariffs and other measures.

Even with this meeting, there are substantial hurdles both sides will need to overcome to genuinely improve relations. In addition to trade, Canberra has repeatedly criticised Chinese actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, the South China Sea and with regards to Taiwan, while Beijing is annoyed that Australia has banned Huawei Technologies Co from participating in the 5G network rollout and has blocked investment by some Chinese companies.

China has repeatedly said that Australia needs to make steps to improve ties, with Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Zhao Lijian saying this week that "there is no ‘auto-pilot’ mode in improving China-Australia relations. A reset requires concrete actions.”

Australia has in turn demanded that China stop obstructing trade, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese saying last month that any further warming of relations would depend on whether or not China’s government agreed to remove trade sanctions and barriers on Australian exports.

Trade Minister Don Farrell told the Australian newspaper Thursday that "tariffs on Australian exports need to be withdrawn.”

If China was to do so, then Australia could withdraw its complaints to the World Trade Organization about China’s actions, he said.

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China , Australia , G20 , Indonesia , Penny Wong , Wang Yi


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