Trade Minister Don Farrell’s empty-handed return from China has been met with disappointment from exporters and the Coalition alike.
Senator Farrell said last week’s visit to Beijing – where he had talks with Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao – was “successful and constructive” and marked a major step in re-stabilising the relationship that has been under strain since 2020.
But his opposition counterpart Kevin Hogan expressed “deep disappointment” that the visit had not delivered any relief from China’s “punitive, unfair and illegal trade sanctions on Australian exports”.
After years of strained diplomatic and trade relations, last week’s talks marked the first in-person trade dialogue since 2019.
Beijing is in the process of reviewing its 80 per cent tariffs on Australian barley following Australia’s suspension of a World Trade Organisation application earlier this year to overturn the impediments.
Senator Farrell said Australians shouldn’t expect the tariffs to “mysteriously disappear”, noting there was a process involved.
Instead, he said he hoped the tariffs would be removed within months, paving the way for impediments on Australian wine and lobster to also be wound back.
“We’re hopeful that that decision will remove those tariffs, and then we can get back to work on normal trade with barley,” Senator Farrell told ABC Radio.
“What I’ve said to the minister is that this process is the process we’d like to use to then resolve the issue of wine, but there are other issues like biosecurity issues we need to work through in respect of other products like meat, like lobsters.
“My objective in this process is to simply persevere and persist so that at the end of the day, all trade impediments are removed and we’re back to a stable relationship with China.”
Given the lack of concrete announcements of breakthroughs, Mr Hogan said he had hoped for more.
“I publicly supported the Trade Minister’s visit to China as a positive step in the trade relationship thaw but nevertheless join the many exporters who are disappointed that it delivered no dividend in sanction relief,” he said in a statement.
“I join with the Trade Minister in asking the Chinese government to go one step further from enhance dialogue and remove the sanctions.”
Mr Hogan acknowledged the visit itself was a step forward and said he looked forward to meeting with Senator Farrell to get a “first-hand account of his visit and clarity on the next steps towards the complete removal of the trade sanctions”.