Australia reports no progress on China trade sanctions but is set on holding its ground

Tariffs imposed by Beijing have disrupted more than a dozen key industries and strained relations between the two countries

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Canberra will co-operate with Beijing where it can, but stressed that it will stand up for its values. EPA
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Australia vowed on Saturday to stand up for itself in dealing with China, after reporting no breakthroughs in high-level talks where it pressed Beijing to drop punitive trade sanctions.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described a meeting between the two countries' foreign ministers the previous day — the first since 2019 — as “just a first step”.

“We should co-operate where we can. But we will stand up for Australian values where we must,” the prime minister said at a news conference.

China — Australia's biggest trading partner — imposed tariffs and disrupted more than a dozen key industries, including barley and coal, as relations deteriorated over the past two years.

Canberra had irked Beijing by calling for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and by banning telecom giant Huawei from taking part in the construction of Australia's 5G network.

Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she raised the trade dispute on Friday, when she met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

It “remains the government's position those trade blockages should be removed”, the minister said in Bali.

China had responded during the talks by stating its “well-known” position and perspective on the dispute, she said.

Ms Wong said she had also raised the cases of journalist Cheng Lei and democracy campaigner Yang Hengjun, Australian citizens detained in China.

“I think all of these issues will take some time,” she said. “There is a path we are walking. And we will take one step at a time in the interest of the country.”

Ms Wong said Australia and China had gained much through their economic and people-to-people ties.

“We do have our differences,” she said, adding, however: “We believe it is in the interest of both countries for the relationship to be stabilised.”

Updated: July 09, 2022, 3:20 PM