Australia trade minister to ask China to lift barriers, query Wang sentence

Credit: REUTERS/FLORENCE LO

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CANBERRA, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Australia's trade minister said on Tuesday he would meet his Chinese counterpart at a World Trade Organization conference in Abu Dhabi this month and push for the removal of restrictions on imported Australian wine, lobsters and meat.

Don Farrell also told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) he would talk to Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao about the suspended death sentence given to Australian writer Yang Hengjun this month.

Farrell said the Australian government was "appalled" by the conviction and sentence over espionage charges but that it should not derail relations between the two countries.

Beijing has removed most of the trade barriers it imposed on Australian goods after Canberra called for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19. Restrictions remain only on wine, lobsters and meat from a small group of abattoirs.

"The Australian Government continues to press for the removal of all remaining trade impediments affecting Australian exports to China," Farrell said in a statement.

"I look forward to continuing constructive dialogue with my Chinese counterpart, Minister Wang Wentao, at the World Trade Organization conference this month."

The WTO meeting in Abu Dhabi in the united Arab Emirates takes place from Feb. 26-29.

Farrell told the ABC that if China does not remove its tariffs on Australian wine by March 31, when a review of them by Beijing is due to end, Canberra will renew its challenge against them at the WTO.

"We will immediately resume our World Trade Organization dispute, and we've made that very clear to the Chinese authorities," he said.

On Yang, Farrell told the ABC: "The Australian government was appalled by the conviction and the penalty of Mr Yang, but we have embarked upon a project process of stabilising our relationship with the Chinese government. And we will continue that process."

Farrell's office did not comment further.

Calls to China's commerce ministry and foreign ministry went unanswered as China is off for the Lunar New Year holiday.

(Reporting by Peter Hobson in Canberra; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Ed Osmond)

((peter.hobson@thomsonreuters.com;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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