Australia and China secure new trade talks

Australian officials are looking to lock in a better trading relationship with China as sanctions hurt local industries.

Assistant Trade Minister Tim Ayres and China's Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting and paved the way for higher-level talks.

Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell and Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao are due to meet via video link.

Senator Ayres raised the removal of Chinese trade restrictions affecting Australia, saying exports to China were in both countries' best interests.

China is Australia's biggest trading partner, accounting for one-third of the nation's trade and exports nearing $200 billion in 2020/21.

But the trading relationship soured under the former government when then prime minister Scott Morrison called for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

The sanctions particularly impacted Australia's barley growers, beef and lobster farmers, and wine producers.

The National Farmers Federation is hopeful the government can reach an agreement with China for improved access, with farmers exporting more than 70 per cent of what they grow.

"The Chinese market currently takes about a third of our farm exports, so any improved access would be very welcome," acting chief executive Charlie Thomas told AAP.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said while there was no official word from Beijing on dropping sanctions, there were encouraging signs including renewed Chinese interest in Australian lobsters.

Senator Watt is in Europe to progress trade talks with the European Union, with Canberra locked in a high-stakes food fight with Europe over locally produced Prosecco and feta cheese.

The minister is digging in over the rights to use geographical indicators on Australian goods.

But securing a deal might prove tough work, with Europe indicating it's a "red-line" issue.

"I've been speaking to a number of European agriculture ministers and they've raised that with me ... it's certainly a concern to them," Senator Watt said.

The minister said the labels meant a lot to Australian producers.

"You've probably seen stories about European migrants to Australia who brought Prosecco wine vines with them and have been manufacturing those sorts of products for a long time under that name," he said.

Senator Watt said Australia would keep fighting to use the terms while also seeking to secure a trade deal that would bring other benefits for products such as beef, sheep, nuts and dairy.

He said Australia's free trade agreement with the UK could still come into effect in the first quarter of this year, despite Britain's leadership chaos delaying the ratification of the deal.