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Australia, China agriculture ministers meet amid diplomatic thaw

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia on Tuesday reaffirmed its commitment to improving agriculture ties with China after a ministerial meeting, as Canberra cheered progress made toward restoring trade in barley amid a thawing in diplomatic relations.

Australia last week said it had reached an agreement with China to resolve their dispute over barley imports which followed Beijing in January resuming purchases of Australian coal after almost three years, and a ramping of up beef imports.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said the resumption of normal trade was in the interests of both countries after a meeting with Chinese agriculture vice minister Ma Youxiang in Canberra on Monday.

“I reiterated our clear and consistent position that all trade impediments affecting Australian exports should be removed,” Watt said in a statement. “We also discussed bilateral issues, including trade and consular matters.”

Australia’s diplomatic relations with its largest trading partner had been severely strained since 2018 when it banned China’s Huawei from providing equipment during the rollout of its 5G network. Ties soured further after Canberra called for an independent investigation into the origin of COVID-19.

China responded by imposing tariffs on Australian commodities including wine and barley.

But tensions have eased after the centre-left Labor government returned to power last year in Australia. Ma Youxiang’s visit comes just days after vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu’s trip to Australia.

Chinese officials are showing a “sincere desire for co-operation” to remove the punitive tariffs on Australian wine, Watt told The Australian newspaper. Australia expects to reach a deal with China in its dispute over wine tariffs after the agreement on barley.

Wine exports to mainland China, which was Australia’s top market by value before Beijing imposed tariffs, plunged to about A$12 million ($8 million) in 2022 from A$1.3 billion in 2019, a report by industry body Wine Australia in February showed.

($1 = 1.4928 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

Disclaimer: This report is auto generated from the Reuters news service. ThePrint holds no responsibilty for its content.

Source: The Print

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