SYDNEY: Australia vowed 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 cooperate 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 wine, barley and coal, as relations deteriorated over the past two years.
Canberra had irked Beijing by calling for an independent probe 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 spat on Friday when she met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia.
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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.
Wong said she had also raised the cases of journalist Cheng Lei and democracy activist 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.”
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.”