Palmer apology too late to stop cattle trade backlash
Trade trouble: Clive Palmer's outburst has hit the cattle trade. Picture: Danella Bevis/The West Australian

China has gone cold on moves to open its shores to live cattle imports from Australia after businessman Clive Palmer's outburst against WA's most important trade partner.

Premier Colin Barnett rev-ealed the trade backlash yesterday and warned that Mr Palmer's comments threatened to derail talks on a free trade agreement with China.

The State Government and WA mining billionaire Andrew Forrest have been at the forefront of negotiations to change the face of the Australian cattle industry by opening exports to China.

Mr Barnett said there was a marked difference in the signals out of China since the Palmer United Party leader labelled Chinese "mongrels" and "bastards" on ABC TV last week.

"We are already seeing some evidence of them pushing back on live cattle exports," he said.

"There is some hesitancy and cooling of relations."

Mr Barnett did not give details of the sensitive talks believed to involve relaxing China's strict quarantine rules. WA has signed three memorandums of understanding on live cattle exports to China since October.

Mr Barnett warned that Beijing was not used to the political system in Australia and would find it confusing and disturbing that the Federal Government dealt with Mr Palmer on a day- to-day basis despite senior ministers condemning his comments. "I don't think it will cause permanent damage but people who think it doesn't matter are naive," he said.

Mr Palmer yesterday wrote a grovelling apology to Chinese Ambassador to Australia Ma Zhaoxu for his anti-China rant sparked by questions about his business dispute with Chinese state-owned miner CITIC Pacific.

"In keeping an open mind, I now come to the realisation that what I said on Q&A was an insult to Chinese people everywhere and I wish to assure them they have my most genuine and sincere apology," he wrote.

"It is in the interest of the whole world that Australia and China have good relations."

The Chinese Embassy released a statement, saying: "The Chinese people are never to be insulted. Any remarks attacking or slandering China would not gain support and were doomed to failure. The healthy and stable development of China-Australia relations is in the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples and cannot be overturned by any individual."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Mr Palmer should have apologised sooner.

The West Australian

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