Trade Minister Don Farrell meets with Chinese ambassador as sanctions, tariffs continue

Trade Minister Don Farrell says he wants Chinese sanctions on Australian exports lifted within a year after meeting with Beijing’s top envoy to Canberra.

Senator Farrell revealed he had spoken to Chinese Ambassador Xiao Qian at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Wednesday evening, describing the meeting as a “positive vibe”.

Senator Farrell said Mr Xiao didn’t give him any indications of when and if Beijing will lift its tariffs on Australian barley, wine, meat and crayfish, suggesting he hadn’t raised the issue with him directly.

“I didn’t mention our four grievances … But it was a warm and friendly meeting,” he told Sky News on Thursday.

“I’m hopeful that as time goes by, one by one, we can resolve all of those outstanding blockages. I made it clear that I’m prepared to meet at any time, anywhere to resolve these outstanding issues.”

Senator Farrell said Mr Xiao didn’t raise any concerns with him about reports the Albanese government is considering ways to limit Chinese investment or ownership in mining Australia’s rare earth metals.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers last week told a critical minerals conference hosted by The Australian newspaper that “foreign investment is a good thing when it’s in our national interest”.

“But as investment interest grows, and as the sources of that investment interest grow, we’ll need to be more assertive about encouraging investment that clearly aligns with our ­national interest,” Mr Chalmers said.

Senator Farrell said on Thursday he hadn’t discussed the issue “at all” with Mr Xiao.

“I think the whole issue of our valuable critical minerals and rare earths is something that we need to have a discussion about in Australia,” he said.

“And of course, that’s why the Treasurer has put it on the agenda.”

Senator Farrell’s discussion with Mr Xiao comes after Anthony Albanese secured a landmark meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali last month.

The Prime Minister used the 30-minute encounter to urge Mr Xi to remove Chinese trade sanctions on Australian exports worth $20bn a year.

The meeting, which ended a six-year diplomatic freeze, has been regarded as an initial thawing of tense relations between Canberra and Beijing, which soured even further during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Mr Albanese has warned Australians not to expect trade sanctions to be lifted immediately, saying he won’t rush the renewed diplomatic relationship, and hosed down suggestions of an immediate visit to China.

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