Delegation of Australian ministers to visit China in further sign of improving ties

CANBERRA (AP) — A delegation of Australian federal ministers will attend a high-level dialogue in Beijing next week in a further sign of a warming of relations after a years-long chill.

Delegates will discuss trade and investment, people-to-people links and regional and international security at the Sept. 7 gathering.

“This is the first time the dialogue has been held since early 2020 and it represents another step towards increasing bilateral engagement and stabilizing our relationship with China,” Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Saturday.

The resumption of the talks was one of the outcomes of a meeting the minister held with China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, in Beijing in December.

“It provides an opportunity for representatives from both countries to discuss our perspectives and how we can grow our cooperation in areas of shared interest,” Wong said.

The resumed dialogue comes a month after China lifted a stifling 3-year-old tariff on Australian barley — in a strong sign of the improving bilateral trade relationship since Australia’s government changed.

China effectively closed its door to Australian barley in May 2020 by imposing an 80.5% tariff.

The trade barriers were widely regarded as punishment for the previous Australian government passing laws that ban covert foreign interference in domestic politics, barring Chinese-owned telecommunications giant Huawei from rolling out Australia’s 5G network due to security concerns, and for calling for an independent investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former Labor trade minister Craig Emerson will co-chair the event, with former coalition foreign minister Julie Bishop attending as a delegate and session lead. China’s former foreign minister and current Honorary President of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, Li Zhaoxing, will co-chair and lead the Chinese delegation.