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China, Australia ministers meet as trading partners seek to restore ties

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BEIJING/SYDNEY — Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong met her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in Beijing on Wednesday, following messages between their leaders, as the major trading partners seek to stabilize frosty diplomatic relations.

Ties between Australia and its biggest trading partner have deteriorated in recent years, with China imposing sanctions on Australian exports after Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus.

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Wong and a small delegation of officials met Wang in the Diaoyutai state guesthouse.

“We can grow our bilateral relationship and uphold both our national interests if both countries navigate our differences wisely,” she said at the beginning of the meeting.

They discussed trade blockages, human rights, two detained Australians, as well as global rules and norms that underpin security and prosperity, Wong told a news conference after the meeting.

“We have different views about how our political system should operate and we have different interests but we need to seek to manage those differences,” she said.

She said they had discussed opportunities for further dialog on trade and she had suggested a “more structured dialog” including meetings of trade and economic ministers.

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“We have agreed to maintain high level engagement and we’ve agreed to further dialog in a range of those areas,” she said.


Wang told his counterpart that China and Australia had no fundamental conflicts of interest and they should use the 50th anniversary of ties to reorganize and restart relations, China’s foreign ministry said.

“China and Australia have no historical grievances and no fundamental conflicts of interest, and should and can become partners in mutual need,” Wang told Wong during their meeting, his ministry said in a statement.

Their meeting followed a message from China’s President Xi Jinping earlier in the day to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese promising China would work to promote a comprehensive strategic partnership, state media reported.

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Albanese thanked Xi for a telegram commemorating the 50th anniversary of ties.

“It is important that we deliver better relations with our major trading partner in the future,” Albanese told a news conference in Sydney.

Before meeting Wang, Wong addressed staff at the Australian embassy on a video link from Diaoyutai, where she stayed on her overnight visit as part of a so-called closed loop system that to isolate her and her entourage amid China’s COVID-19 outbreak.

Wong’s visit is the first by an Australian minister since 2019 and the first formal talks in Beijing since 2018.

A meeting between Albanese and Xi on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Indonesia last month signaled a thaw in ties, although China’s trade sanctions estimated to be worth A$20 billion remain in place.

Wong said she had raised the cases of two Australians detained in Beijing, broadcaster Cheng Lei and writer Yang Henjun, both awaiting verdicts in closed-door national security trials, with Australia advocating for them to have consular access, and to be “reunited with their families as soon as possible.” (Additional reporting by Martin Pollard in Beijing, Kirsty Needham and Lewis Jackson in Sydney; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Michael Perry and Christian Schmollinger)



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