Chinese commerce minister reports that Australia and China are in communications over trade dispute


The Cattle Site

18 May 2020


China’s commerce minister Zhong Shan says the two countries are in communication amid escalating diplomatic tensions over trade and the coronavirus pandemic.


Reuters reports that Shan made the comment when asked about Australia’s request to discuss beef and barley trade issues. Australian trade minister Simon Birmingham previously reported that China was ignoring calls to ease trade tension.


Earlier this month, Birmingham requested a telephone call with Zhong after four large beef exporters were suspended by Chinese customs authorities.


Beijing has also threatened to impose an 80 percent tariff on Australian barley shipments. The move is seen as a retaliatory measure against Australia’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.


In a television interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) on 17 May, Birmingham said that his request for discussions with his Chinese counterpart, “has not been met with a call being accommodated at this stage. We are open to have that discussion, even where there are difficult issues to be discussed."


Birmingham said Australia reserved its rights to bring a case against China at the World Trade Organisation if Beijing imposed the tariffs on Australian barley.


Relations between Canberra and Beijing have been strained amid Australian accusations of Chinese meddling in domestic affairs and concern about what Australia sees as China's growing influence in the Pacific region...