Meeting with China’s Minister for Commerce Wang Wentao

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Opening remarks

Minister for Trade, Don Farrell: Thank you very much for making time to talk with us today about the important issues that affect both of our countries.

I look forward to meeting you in person at a suitable time, but very much appreciate today as a first step in meeting with you and talking with you.

I have always enjoyed my visits to China and look forward to the opportunity of coming back at some point in time.

We have much to discuss and the outcomes of our discussions have the potential to be of great benefit to both our countries and both of our consumers.

We have an opportunity to continue on the path set out by our leaders in Bali last year, and by our Foreign Ministers in December when they marked the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic relations.

Trade and investment between China and Australia has always been part of the bedrock of our bilateral relationship.

And today we look to make that foundation even firmer. As our two leaders said when they met last year, Australia and China have highly complementary economies.

China is, and continues to be, Australia’s largest trading partner by a very considerable margin, and also, significantly, an important source of our investment.

Chinese investment has made a lasting contribution to Australia.

Tourists and business visitors contribute to our shared prosperity and build people-to-people ties and mutual understanding. Chinese students remain an essential part of Australia’s education landscape and Australian society and contribute greatly to Australia’s multicultural society.

The Australian Government is determined to cooperate with China where we can in the interests of both of our peoples, while standing firm in our national interests.

There are issues on which we disagree, and we should, where possible, address those differences frankly through dialogue, which I am hopeful that we can do today.

Australia is firmly dedicated to the rules-based multilateral trading system that has supported our growth over many, many decades. China too has spoken publicly in support of that system.

In recent years, trade has not proceeded smoothly, and we believe that has been to the detriment of both countries. I am confident that our discussions today can provide a pathway towards the restoration of unimpeded trade.

I look forward to hearing from you Minister.

China's Minister for Commerce, Wang Wentao: Honourable Minister Farrell, I’m very happy to have this virtual meeting with you.

Like you have just said, I’m also looking forward to meeting with you in person at the earliest time.

I am also very happy to extend an invitation to you to visit China at a time convenient to you. And I believe that your next trip to China will give you a different impression.

As you mentioned, in last November President Xi Jinping had a meeting with Prime Minister Albanese in Bali. The two leaders had an exchange of views on bilateral relations, charting a course for its future growth.

Not so long ago my colleague Mr Wang Shouwen talked with Assistant Minister Tim Ayres in Davos, a good foundation for our talk today.

And China’s Ambassador to Australia, his excellency Xiao Qian, is also in the room, who has just returned to China to report his duties.

I also agree with the assessment of bilateral economic and trade relations between our countries. Our two countries enjoy a high degree of economic complementarity. As you have used the word, ‘keystone’, to describe such a relationship.

Now we face an important opportunity in our economic cooperation and trade. Our two sides need to work together to bring more positive factors into our economic cooperation and trade [indistinct] benefit of our businesses and consumers, as you have just [indistinct].

So I would like to work together with you to bring our economic cooperation back to the correct track.

Today I’m looking forward to professional [indistinct] and practical exchanges of views on major economic and trade issues of vital interest. I wish to stress that we will face up to these issues. At the same time, I believe that this meeting cannot resolve all of these issues.

So I suggest that we place emphasis on building mutual trust and finding a way [indistinct] resolve these issues. And I think that is the most, for today’s meeting, the priority for our discussion today.

I also understand that our Australian, I also believe that our Australian colleagues [indistinct] that China will not make trade-offs on principled issues. You mentioned there are differences between our two countries, and I won’t go over those differences.

Rather, we should [indistinct] as the Chinese saying goes, we should seek common ground while [indistinct]. It is difficult to resolve some of our differences [indistinct] often cannot be resolved forever, we should place emphasis on [indistinct].

So now I am looking forward to an open and candid exchange of views with you.

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