Trade sanctions remain on Australian exports

Tess Ikonomou |

Chinese Premier Li Qiang has left Perth, wrapping up a four-day visit to Australia.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang has left Perth, wrapping up a four-day visit to Australia.

Australia has failed to have trade sanctions on rock lobster and beef exporters lifted during a visit by Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

Despite declarations by China’s second most senior leader relations between Canberra and Beijing were “on the right track,” the bans which were imposed in 2020 remain.

Trade Minister Don Farrell said he expected the sanctions to be removed soon.

“I’m now very, very confident as a result of the meetings today and yesterday that these final issues will be resolved and resolved very quickly and Chinese consumers will very soon have the benefit of wonderful Australian rock lobster on their menu,” he told ABC’s 7.30 on Tuesday night.

Li Qiang and Anthony Albanese
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Premier Li Qiang have signed several deals including on visas. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)

China smacked sanctions on $20 billion worth of Australian products during the height of a diplomatic spat after the previous government of Scott Morrison called for an inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s government was elected in 2022, Beijing has lifted bans from all the products it targeted apart from two abattoirs and rock lobster.

Asked if he was disappointed the dispute couldn’t be resolved while the Chinese officials were in Australia, Senator Farrell said it was a biosecurity issue.

He insisted Australia could “walk and chew gum at the same time” by increasing its sales to China while diversifying and finding new markets.

GrainGrowers chairman Rhys Turton said barley exports to China had rebounded since the duties were imposed, and welcomed the work being done to maintain mutually beneficial relationships.

“The key lesson for industry has been to work closely with the Australian government to prioritise trade diversification and market access and to build strong relationships with all existing international customers,” he said.

Becoming the most senior Chinese leader to visit Australia in seven years, Mr Li committed with Mr Albanese to improved communication to avoid military miscalculations, and a number of new agreements including on visas.

Five memorandums of understanding were signed.

Li Qiang
Premier Li Qiang is the most senior Chinese leader to visit Australia in seven years. (Colin Murty/AAP PHOTOS)

But an incident involving Chinese officials overshadowed the four-day trip, when they attempted to stop Australian journalist and former prisoner Cheng Lei from being filmed by television cameras on Monday.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton criticised Mr Albanese for his response to the behaviour by the embassy officials, saying the prime minister needed to “grow a backbone”.

Senator Farrell defended Mr Albanese, saying he had raised it directly with Mr Li.

“I’m not sure what else the prime minister could have done in the circumstances,” he said.

Mr Li left Western Australia on Tuesday evening, wrapping up a four-day visit.