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Agriculture Ministers from Australia & China Meet Amid Diplomatic Thaw

Following a ministerial meeting, Australia reaffirmed its commitment to improve agricultural connections with China, as Canberra celebrated progress towards restarting barley trade amid thawing diplomatic relations.

Shivam Dwivedi
Agriculture Ministers from Australia & China Meet Amid Diplomatic Thaw
Agriculture Ministers from Australia & China Meet Amid Diplomatic Thaw

Australia announced last week that it had achieved an agreement with China to settle their disagreement over barley imports, following Beijing's resumption of purchases of Australian coal after nearly three years and an increase in beef imports.

Following a meeting with Chinese agriculture vice minister Ma Youxiang in Canberra on Monday, Agriculture Minister Murray Watt stated that normal trade was in both countries' best interests.

"I reiterated our clear and consistent position that all trade impediments affecting Australian exports should be removed," Watt stated in a statement. "We also discussed bilateral issues, including trade and consular matters." Australia's diplomatic relations with its major trading partner have been badly strained since 2018, when the country barred Huawei from providing equipment for the rollout of its 5G network.

Ties deteriorated even worse as Canberra demanded an independent probe into the origins of pandamic. China retaliated by placing duties on Australian goods such as wine and barley. However, tensions have subsided since Australia's center-left Labour government retook office last year. Ma Youxiang's visit follows Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu's tour to Australia.

Watt told The Australian newspaper that Chinese authorities are shown a "sincere desire for cooperation" in removing harsh tariffs on Australian wine. Following the accord on barley, Australia intends to strike an arrangement with China in its fight over wine tariffs.

According to a February assessment by industry association Wine Australia, wine exports to mainland China, Australia's top market by value before Beijing imposed tariffs, will fall to around A$12 million ($8 million) in 2022 from A$1.3 billion in 2019.

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