Foreign Minister Penny Wong has again urged Beijing to remove punitive trade measures against Australia during a meeting with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in New York.
- Penny Wong says she focused on pressuring China to end trade sanctions, describing talks as “constructive”
- She also addressed Australians arbitrarily detained in China and Beijing’s Taiwan threats
- The meeting is another sign that China is willing to keep communication open with the Albanian government
Senator Wong used his remarks at the start of the debate to talk about the prospects for clean energy cooperation between the two countries, while warning against “blockages” imposed by China.
“Trade has been the platform from which the People’s Republic of China has made historic achievements in poverty reduction,” she told Mr Wang.
“Open, rules-based trade within the international system has indeed supported the economic development of both our countries.
“We both have a lot to lose from the dissolution of that system. And we both have a lot to gain from direct and productive engagement.”
Although brief, Senator Wong characterized the meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) as “constructive”.
It is the second time the two ministers have met face-to-face in 12 weeks, following a freeze on high-level contact between Australia and China for more than two years.
“I think it’s a long way, with many steps to be taken by both parties to a more stable relationship,” Senator Wong told reporters afterwards.
While Australia and China still have many deep-seated disputes across a range of areas, officials in Canberra hope they may begin to stabilize relations by convincing China to unwind some of the trade penalties imposed in 2020when the bilateral relationship was at its nadir.
Trade Minister Don Farrell previously signaled Australia was willing to find a “compromise” or “alternative way” to settle disputes over a range of sanctions on Australian goods, including wine, timber and barley.
After the meeting, Senator Wong said Australia would not abandon its core national interests or principles when dealing with China.
“On issues of difference, the first of them is obviously the issue of trade blockages,” she said.
“And that was the question I focused on initially [of the meeting].”
Maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait and the treatment of Australians imprisoned in China were also on the agenda, along with the war in Ukraine, which Beijing has yet to explicitly condemn despite signaling reservations.
Senator Wong said she again raised concerns ongoing detention of Australian journalist Cheng Lei and author Yang Hengjunwho are both accused of espionage.
“Australia’s national interests remain constant and our government will always speak out when we believe it is necessary on issues that matter to our people,” Senator Wong said.
Australia remains aware of Taiwan amid US ambiguity
While recent comments by US President Joe Biden have once again raised the specter of conflict with China over Taiwan, Senator Wong was quick to lower the temperature.
“We call for restraint, we call for de-escalation and we reiterate the bipartisan stance Australia has taken since 1972 and our One China policy, which includes … economic and people-to-people engagement with Taiwan,” she said .
Earlier this week, Mr. Biden told CBS’s 60 Minutes that the United States would defend Taiwan if China launched an “unprecedented attack” on the self-governing democracy.
“Yes, if indeed there was an unprecedented attack,” Sir. Biden said when asked if US forces would be deployed.
The White House has since said the remarks do not represent a formal change in policy.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Senator Wong said Australia did not want to see “any unilateral change to the status quo”.
“Australia’s position on Taiwan has not changed,” she said.
meeting of the UN Security Council
The war in Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s escalating rhetoric once again dominated official and unofficial talks on day three of the General Assembly.
At a UN Security Council meeting, insults and allegations of war crimes dominated the debate, to which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived 90 minutes late before later storming out.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Putin’s nuclear threats and decision to call up hundreds of thousands of citizens to strengthen his flaming war.
“Every councilor should send a clear message that these reckless nuclear threats must stop immediately,” Mr Blinken said.
“Tell President Putin to stop the horror he started.”
Wang was less direct, asking that investigations not be “politicized” and be “based on fair facts rather than an assumption of guilt.”
Australia is among several countries that have called on China to take a tougher stance and use its influence on Russia to help end the war.
“This is a difficult time, it is a time of great change,” Senator Wong said after his meeting with the Chinese foreign minister.
“And this is a time when we must behave in a way that is responsible, calm and considered.”