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China, Australia commerce chiefs discuss improving ties

By ZHONG NAN | China Daily | Updated: 2023-02-07 09:05
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Visitors gather at the Australia booth during the 2022 China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing in September. [Photo/China Daily]

Beijing willing to restart economic, trade exchange relationships with Canberra

China and Australia should work together to inject more positive energy into bilateral economic and trade cooperation, said China's Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao.

During his meeting with Australia's Trade and Tourism Minister Don Farrell via video link on Monday, Wang said China's continued opening-up will bring more opportunities for countries around the world, including Australia.

The meeting is an important step for both sides to get bilateral economic and trade relations back on track, Wang said. It is the first between the two countries' trade ministers since 2019.

The two sides had a professional, pragmatic and frank exchange on implementing the key consensus reached in talks between leaders of China and Australia in Bali, Indonesia, in November, properly addressing each other's key economic and trade concerns and planning the development of bilateral economic and trade ties in the next phase, according to a statement released by the ministry after the meeting.

Wang reaffirmed China is willing to restart economic and trade exchange mechanisms with Australia, expand cooperation in emerging areas — such as climate change and new energy — as well as promote high-quality growth of economic and trade relations between the two countries.

China is highly concerned about Australia's tightened security review of Chinese companies' investment and operations in the country and hopes Canberra will properly handle related cases and provide Chinese firms with a fair, open and nondiscriminatory business environment, he said.

Farrell said on Monday he had agreed to an in-person meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing in the near future.

"Our meeting represents another important step in the stabilization of Australia's relations with China," said Farrell following the video conference meeting.

Farrell said Australia and China have highly complementary economies. China is Australia's largest trading partner and an important source of investment, and trade and investment are deemed important cornerstones of the bilateral relationship.

Australia and China both support a rules-based multilateral trading system. Australia is willing to work with China to enhance mutual trust and resolve differences through frank dialogue for the benefit of people on both sides, said the Australian official.

China-Australia trade declined by 0.9 percent on a yearly basis to 1.47 trillion yuan ($217.12 billion) in 2022, data from China's General Administration of Customs showed.

China exports mainly computers, transport equipment, mechanical and electrical products, electric vehicles and chemical products to Australia.

In addition to iron ore, coal, alumina, copper ore and wool, Australia's exports to China include wine, timber, grains, fruits and aquatic and dairy products.

Amid the disruption period caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and rising global protectionism, closer Sino-Australian business ties, together with the tangible benefits brought by the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership pact, will advance regional supply chains and cut cross-border transaction costs to boost exports and investments in the Asia-Pacific region, said Lin Meng, director of the Modern Supply Chain Research Institute, which is part of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing.

"China's optimized COVID-19 response and further opening-up measures send positive signals for the recovery of outbound travel between China and Australia, and we are optimistic about the outlook for the outbound industry in 2023 and beyond," said Andrew Hogg, executive general manager for Eastern Markets and Aviation, Tourism Australia, an Australian government agency responsible for attracting international visitors to Australia.

"We are very much looking forward to welcoming Chinese travelers back to Australia," said Hogg.

Echoing that sentiment, Daisy Liu, marketing general manager for China at Bellamy's Organic, an Australian organic infant milk powder and baby food provider, said the company will invest more into the middle and high-end milk formula market, snacks and foodstuffs in China in the coming years.

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