Australia will focus on China’s punishing trade sanctions when Prime Minister Anthony Albanese meets President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, Treasurer Jim Chalmers says.
Albanese will meet his Chinese counterpart this afternoon, marking the first meeting between Australian and Chinese leaders since 2016.
It also represents the most prominent meeting since China levelled a series of heavy sanctions on Australian exports including wine, barley, beef, and lobster.
The sanctions, implemented in retaliation to the former Morrison government’s call for an inquiry into Beijing’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, have significantly dented the Chinese export values of certain goods.
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Between January and September 2021, the value of Australia-China exports covered by those sanctions fell by $17.68 billion compared to 2019 levels, according to one estimate.
Australian wine exports to China have fallen by 92% to just $21 million as a result of new tariffs, Wine Australia states.
Despite the sanctions, China remains Australia’s most significant international trading partner.
Australia-China export values hit $188.9 billion in 2021, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade states, largely through the increasing value of iron ore.
However, Treasurer Jim Chalmers indicated that trade sanctions will be high on the Prime Minister’s agenda.
“These trade restrictions are obviously not in Australia’s interests, not in the interests of our employers and exporters in particular, and we want to see them lifted,” he told ABC RN Breakfast Tuesday morning.
Addressing those restrictions could ameliorate tensions between the nations, Chalmers added.
“It would be in the interests of a more stable relationship were that to occur,” he said, while maintaining Australia “will speak up for our national interests where that is necessary”.
Addressing reporters gathered in Indonesia for the G20 Summit, Albanese yesterday said there would be “no preconditions on this discussion”, but welcomed the opportunity to engage in “constructive dialogue” with Australia’s single largest trading partner.
Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott, who spoke alongside Albanese, shared clearer ambitions for the meeting.
The event will serve as a “tremendous reset” of tumultuous relations between Australia and China, Westacott said.
“This creates an opportunity for business to come in behind that reset that the Prime Minister has done to start building those business-to-business relationships, to start driving investment, to start driving job creation, to start driving new industry formation,” she said.
“This is a win for Australia.”