New Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called on Beijing to drop its coercive trade restrictions before considering a reset of bilateral relations.
“It was China that imposed sanctions on Australia,” Albanese told reporters on June 13. “They need to lift these sanctions in order to improve relations between Australia and China.”
The Prime Minister’s comments come after Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Australia could not hope for improved bilateral relations by simply operating on “autopilot”.
“A reset requires concrete actions,” Wang said.
Beijing’s economic coercion has swept away eight major Australian exports – beef, seafood, wine, honey, lamb, wheat, coal and timber – after former Foreign Secretary Marise Payne called for an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020.
The Chinese Communist Party also provided a list of 14 “grievances” that Australia needed to resolve before diplomatic relations could be normalized.
They included a request to the government to prevent the press from reporting negatively on China; stop forging alliances with Indo-Pacific partners; reverse Huawei’s ban from Australia’s 5G network; and remove foreign interference laws.
Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, also Minister of Defence, was able to meet his Chinese Defense counterpart during the recent Shangri-La Dialogue, which was held in Singapore.
“It’s always a good thing for people to dialogue and have a discussion, and it’s something that has been missing for a few years. But concrete steps must be taken to move forward,” Albanese said.
“It was China that changed the nature of the relationship.
“But China must lift the sanctions it has put in place. There is no reason for them to be there. We are a trading nation. We have fulfilled all our obligations under the contracts and arrangements that have been put in place. And we also produce good products. And these sanctions have hurt Australia. But they have also hurt China.
The prime minister also said the federal government would “continue to uphold Australian values”.
“These are values of human rights, but they are also values of interaction across the economy in what is a globalized world. And Australia wants to trade with China. We want to trade in a way that benefits both countries,” he said.
The freeze on diplomatic relations with Australia was broken during the Dialogue when Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe invited Australian Marles to dinner.
Marles welcomed the meeting and said he had “very frank and complete” exchanges.
“It has been three years since the Defense Ministers of our two countries met. It was an important meeting, which the Australian government welcomes,” he told reporters.