Beijing Should Stop Supplying Weapons to Russia and Lift Australian Trade Bans: Foreign Minister
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with her new Chinese counterpart and again urged for the lifting of trade barriers, as well as calling on the regime to stop supplying weapons to Russia.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, on March 2, 2023.
Following her visit to Beijing in December, Wong met Foreign Minister Qin Gang on the sidelines of the recent G20 summit meeting in New Delhi.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to engage on important matters, including trade, human rights and consular matters, as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” she told reporters in the Indian capital.
“The responsibility for what is occurring in Ukraine and its consequent effects on global energy and food insecurity as well as the devastation we are seeing and the suffering of the Ukrainian people, lies at the feet of Russia,” Wong said.
“I’ve previously said that the world does look to China for its responsible leadership when it comes to Ukraine, particularly given its close relationship with Russia.”
“We’ve expressed the view that it would be in both countries’ interests for those trade impediments to be removed,” she said.
Beijing placed bans on about $20 billion (US$14 billion) worth of trade goods, including wine, lobster, barley, and coal, in retaliation to the previous Morrison government’s call for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said Beijing will lift the bans because their trade coercion campaign failed to achieve its goal of forcing Australia to “knuckle down.”
“I would expect these trade sanctions to be lifted. They haven’t worked,” he said. “It’s cost the wine industry, made no difference to barley … really made no difference to coal at all. Coal prices are at an all-time high.”
Amid the coercion campaign, the Chinese regime also leaked a document listing 14 “grievances” that the Australian needed to deal with before relations could be restored, including overturning the 5G ban on Huawei and repealing foreign interference laws.
Australian Government Calls for Engagement Despite Difficult Past
Wong continues to claim that both Canberra and Beijing can “grow our bilateral relationship while safeguarding our national interests, if we both navigate our differences wisely.”
Following the downing of the spy balloon in February, she said that despite concerns about international laws being violated, the Australian government would continue to engage with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“We have come to government with a very clear view about the importance of stabilising the relationship with China, and we’ve taken many steps to seek to achieve that,” she said on Feb. 6.
The minister also urged the United States to do the same, believing it to be important that competition does not “escalate into conflict.”
“We share the U.S. concerns about the infringement or the violation of international law, but what we would now encourage is continued dialogue because the world wants a peaceful, stable, prosperous world. And that means the great powers will need to continue to engage,” she said.
Meanwhile, Trade Minister Don Farrell said he also received an invitation to meet his Chinese counterpart, indicating that bilateral ties appeared to be improving.
“One of the things [Wang Wentao] said at that meeting was that the freeze is over and we’re moving to a warm spring. I took that as a very positive sign,” he told the ABC.
“When I go to China, I want to make sure that we’ve got as much work done to make that a successful visit to ensure that we get things back to a stable working relationship.”
While the Australian government has continued bring up and advocate for universal human rights with the regime, Beijing has shown no indication or attempt to address these issues, telling Australia not to “interfere” with their “internal affairs.”
US and Russia Also Hold Talks
During the sidelines of the G20 summit, the United States and Russia held their highest face-to-face talks since the Ukraine invasion began.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken briefly met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, but there was no indication of an easing of tensions.
The exchange came amid heightened global tensions surrounding Russia’s nuclear threats.
Despite the failure to achieve consensus on Ukraine, Blinken said it was a promising sign that 18 of the 20 nations had agreed on a statement calling for an end to the war.
For his part, Lavrov said that Russia would continue its military campaign in Ukraine, accused the United States of conducting “blackmail,” and mocked the U.S. dismissal of a so-called “peace plan” issued by China which blamed the West for Russia’s invasion.