Scott Morrison is prepared to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping to mend a tense trade dispute simmering between the countries for months but warned Australia would not make concessions.
The Prime Minister said Canberra and Beijing viewed their links as important for the prosperity and security of both nations, and should work out their differences.
‘We will remain absolutely open and available to meet, to discuss, any of the issues that have been identified,’ he said.
‘But those discussions won’t take place on the base of any sort of preemptive concessions on Australia’s part on those matters.
China slapped an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley back in June, harming producers
‘I don’t think that any Australian would want their Prime Minister to be conceding the points that they’ve set out.’
‘It’s an important relationship, but it is a relationship that will be pursued on the basis of Australia’s national interests, and without, in any way, compromising Australia’s sovereignty.’
The PM also rejected arguments the Australia-China dispute was caused by decisions made by his government, saying relations were growing tense over a number of years.
Outwardly, signs of Beijing’s frustration with Australia was visible under the previous Turnbull government.
After Australia banned Chinese tech giant Huawei from participating in constructing the country’s 5G network amid espionage concerns, senior communist party officials reportedly refused to answer calls from Australian politicians and diplomats.
The Australian coal export industry to china is worth $14billion a year (pictured: Newcastle port)
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaking on Monday (pictured) said he was open to meeting his Chinese counterpart to repair a tense trade dispute
Foreign interference laws, widely regarded as aimed at China, also introduced that year further infuriated Beijing.
However, Morrison’s vocal push for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, eventually backed by 120 countries, caused tensions to reach boiling point.
During the second half of the year China began targeting Australian exports one-by-one in economic retaliation.
Beef, barley, lobster, wine, and coal were hit with measures such sky-high taxes – effectively banning Australian exports of the products.
Towards the end of the year, the Chinese embassy in Canberra released a bizarre dossier of ’14 grievances’ outlining the issues Beijing has with Australia.
‘I know what the 14 points are; so does everyone else. If they are the conditions then it will be a while before we meet. But we are happy to meet and work through these issues and discuss them,’ Mr Morrison said this week.
Mr Morrison added that the sovereign position of Australia and China’s outlook had become increasingly ‘inconsistent’.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne writing in The Australian this week said that as America welcomes a new President, the world would be looking at how Joe Biden began his four years at the White House.
Without referring to any country Ms Payne said Australia would ‘support adherence to international rules and norms, promote transparency and stand against malicious behaviour’.
‘Australia will benefit in the long-term if there is a network of nations, with the US as a leading participant, that consistently makes clear what constitutes legitimate behaviour under a rules-based system, even one that is evolving to take account of the interests of rising powers,’ she wrote.
Barley producers were forced to find other buyers for their crop after China slapped a huge tariff on the Australian commodity
Wild Cattle Creek Estate, near Seville, was bought by Chinese investors for $8.5 million in 2018
Mr Morrison also said on Monday he would be open to bringing in former prime ministers John Howard and Kevin Rudd to help rebuild Australia-China diplomacy.
Both are experts in the field and guided Australia through a particularly prosperous decade between 2000 and 2010 built in part on trade with China.
‘This is a matter that the former prime minister Howard and I have discussed on many occasions,’ he said.
‘It’s a topic that some time ago, and even more recently, I was connecting with prime minister Rudd about these matters. I’m always open to those who are experienced in these areas.
‘We value the trading and more broader comprehensive relationship, and we will be taking up whatever opportunities we believe is going to best position Australia to be in a position to advance that relationship.’
Australian cargo ships loaded with goods have had to wait up to a month at Chinese ports while the trade dispute wages (pictured: Lianyungang Port in east China’s Jiangsu province)
China’s 14 grievances with Australia
1. ‘Incessant wanton interference in China’s Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan affairs’
2. ‘Siding with the US’ anti-China campaign and spreading misinformation’
3. ‘Thinly veiled allegations against China on cyber attacks without any evidence’
4. ‘An unfriendly or antagonistic report on China by media’
5. Providing funding to ‘anti-China think tank for spreading untrue reports’
6. ‘Foreign interference legislation’
7. ‘Foreign investment decisions’
8. ‘Banning Huawei technologies and ZTE from the 5G network’
9. ‘Politicisation and stigmatisation of the normal exchanges and coorperation between China and Australia’
10. Making statements ‘on the South China Sea to the United Nations’
11. ‘Outrageous condemnation of the governing party of China by MPs and racist attacks against Chinese or Asian people’
12. ‘The early drawn search and reckless seizure of Chinese journalists’ homes and properties’
13. ‘Calls for an independent inquiry into Covid-19’
14. ‘Legislation to scrutinise agreements with a foreign government’