Australia wants China to remove the remaining trade restrictions on exports such as lobster and beef removed as soon as possible, Treasurer Jim Chalmers says.
But the government has downplayed expectations that will occur off the back of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s landmark trip – the first visit by an Australian leader in seven years.
“We've made no secret of the fact that we’d like to see the trade restrictions lifted … But that’s not the primary purpose of this meeting this week,” Dr Chalmers told ABC’s Insiders.
“This week is part of a bigger and broader effort to stabilise a really important economic relationship, and we’ve seen some of the fruits of that already.”
Mr Albanese received a red-carpet welcome when he touched down in Shanghai on Saturday.
He was greeted by China's top diplomat in Australia, Xiao Qian, Australia’s ambassador to China, Graham Fletcher, and the Vice Mayor of Shanghai, Xie Dong.
Speaking after his arrival, Mr Albanese said he would engage in “open and respectful dialogue”.
“We must co-operate with China where we can, we will disagree where we must, but we will also engage in our national interest,” he said.
“China is our major trading partner. More than one in four of our export dollars is derived from China. And we know, as well, that one in four Australian jobs is trade dependent, which is why it's very good to be here.”
The diplomatic relationship was put in the deep freeze after a series of disagreements over the decision to ban Huawei from Australia’s 5G roll out.
A call from the Morrison government for an international inquiry into the origins of Covid-19 only inflamed tensions.
In response, Beijing imposed restrictions that effectively black-listed $20bn of Australian exports such as barley, beef, wine and lobster.
China has since wound back tariffs on barley and it is expected to remove the barrier for wine imports after a five-month review.
The Prime Minister will spend Sunday in Shanghai attending the China International Import Expo where more than 200 Australian businesses will be on show.
Trade Minister Don Farrell, who is also attending the event to lobby for the beef and lobster industry, said he remained “hopeful” restrictions could be removed.
“We know the progress that we've made over the last 18 months … Remember, it was $20 billion worth of (trade) impediments. With the recent announcement in respect of wine, that’s down to $1 billion,” he said.
“We’re hopeful that as a result of this visit, that we can get that down to zero and that the remaining impediments to lobster and beef will be removed.”
Mr Albanese will then jet off to Beijing where he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who he last met a year ago on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia.
It’s expected President Xi will bid for his support for China’s entry into the 12-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The major trade pact, which also includes Japan, New Zealand and Singapore, requires countries to scrap or significantly reduce tariffs for foreign countries and commit to protecting fellow members’ intellectual property rights.
Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said the Prime Minister should not support China‘s attempt to join the agreement.
“It would be absurd if Australia of all countries would support the admission of a new member, which had till recently had been responsible for $20 billion of unlawful and unjust unjustified sanctions against a country with which it has a bilateral free trade agreement with,” Senator Paterson told Sky News.
“Beneath the surface, China is the number one source of espionage risk for Australia, cyber-based attacks, intellectual property.
“Fundamental tensions remain in the relationship – what has changed is China’s tactical approach to Australia to the regional and the world.”