Chinese envoy says relations with Australia need to be repaired before solving trade issues

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SYDNEY — More work needs to be done to reset relations between Canberra and Beijing, the Chinese ambassador to Australia said on Wednesday, adding that the two nations have yet to reach the stage of resolving political and trade disputes.

Australia’s biggest trading partner, China, has imposed sanctions on its products, from coal to wine and seafood, after Australia called for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and banned the 5G network to telecommunications giant Huawei.

Ambassador Xiao Qian said there had been no meeting between the leaders of the two nations in recent years as Beijing believed a face-to-face meeting could worsen strained relations.

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“It’s because we didn’t think the reunion would help improve the relationship and we feared the reunion would make things even worse,” he told the National Press Club in Canberra, the capital.

The foreign ministers of the two nations met last month for the first time in three years, on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Bali, after the election of a Labor government.

Despite some contact between ministers, “we haven’t come to the scene yet to discuss how to solve these specific issues, the political issues, the trade issues,” Xiao added.

He said it was “only a good start and there is a lot to do to really reset this relationship”.

Coal stocks surged last month on rumors that China would lift an unofficial ban on Australian coal in place since 2020.

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China is also the biggest buyer of Australian iron ore.

On Saturday, the Chinese embassy criticized a joint statement by Australia, Japan and the United States expressing concern over Chinese military exercises in the Taiwan Strait.

Xiao said Australia should not misinterpret the “One China” policy. “On the Taiwan issue, there is no room for compromise,” he said.

Asked about the Chinese ambassador to France’s comments that Taiwanese need to be “re-educated”, Xiao declined to use the term and said Taiwanese have a different view of the homeland.

“I think my personal understanding is that once…Taiwan is united, returns to the motherland, there could be a process for the people of Taiwan to have a correct understanding of China,” he said. (Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Clarence Fernandez)



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