PM takes China trade denials at face value

Daniel McCulloch and Paul Osborne
·2-min read

Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists he takes China's denials of trade strikes against Australian exports at face value.

China is increasingly targeting multi-billion dollar Australian industries including wine, beef and grain as diplomatic tensions sour over the coronavirus, Hong Kong and South China Sea.

But despite the various tariffs and import bans, the Chinese government has denied singling out Australian products.

"China has denied that is what they're doing and I can only can take that at face value," Mr Morrison told reporters on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the trade strikes were a deep concern for Australia and again called on China to observe international trade rules.

"They're certainly the principles to which we would adhere and we expect our Chinese partners to do the same," she told the ABC.

Australian officials are working with industries and Chinese authorities to try and resolve the trade headaches.

However, senior Australian ministers have been unable to secure meetings with their Chinese counterparts.

"We have said, on many occasions, that we are more than willing to engage with our Chinese counterparts and have made multiple offers in that regard," Senator Payne said.

"Those offers stand, and it is a matter for the Chinese government whether they wish to take those up, but we would hope that they do."

China has recently disrupted imports of Australian coal, timber and rock lobsters. There are fears Australian sugar and copper could soon be dragged into the dispute.

Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy told a business forum it was in all countries' interests to have open and free-flowing trading arrangements.

Issues around US-China and Australia-China trade were a concern and there would be shocks for some exporters.

"(But) I think most Australian businesses will move pretty quickly in any economic circumstances," he said.