Australia urges China to lift trade barriers, advocates for detained citizens

Sydney, Australia, Jul 14 (EFE).- Australia called on China to lift its 2020 trade barriers and advocated for its citizens detained in the country, including a journalist and an academic, in a meeting between its foreign minister and China’s top diplomat.

“I have just had a constructive meeting with Director Wang Yi out here in Jakarta,” Penny Wong said, referring to a meeting Thursday night on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers’ meeting in the Indonesian capital.

“We will always continue to advocate to China for the removal of trade impediments and it is our practice, as you know, to ensure that we raise the circumstances of Ms Cheng Lei and Dr Yang as well as other Australians who are facing the death penalty,” Wong said, according to a transcript of her remarks released Friday by her office.

One of the major crusades of the Australian government is the defense of the rights of Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who was arrested in China on Aug. 13, 2020 for allegedly supplying state secrets overseas and indicted more than a year ago behind closed doors in Beijing without a known verdict.

In addition, the Australian government advocates for the Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun, detained in China in 2019 and indicted in May 2021 behind closed doors for alleged espionage, his sentence also unknown.

The other major issue of conflict between Australia and China – which have had tepid rapprochements since Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese came to power in 2022 – is linked to Beijing’s decision to impose trade barriers and tariffs on Australian products in 2020.

While China, Australia’s biggest trading partner, has lifted some restrictive measures against several products since Albanese came to power, the removal of steep duties on exports such as barley and wine are still pending.

“My view is we’re seeing some progress on trade. We would like to see more,” Wong said Thursday night, stressing the desire to “stabilize” the relationship with China and to “cooperate where we can, disagree where we must, and engage in our national interests.”

As part of the progress, China and Australia – whose relations began to deteriorate in 2018 – agreed to a one-month extension of the review of the 80.5 percent barley tariffs that Beijing undertook in mid-April. However, if China does not do so, the Canberra will resume its appeal made to the World Trade Organization. EFE wat/nt-ns/tw

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