China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson said Beijing has a “consistent and clear” position on relations with Canberra as he again addressed the issue of tariffs amid calls for trade sanctions to be lifted.
China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin has insisted the tariffs Beijing slapped on Australian goods are “lawful and beyond reproach” as he called on Canberra to handle bilateral relations “in the sprit of mutual respect”.
Mr Wang made the remarks at a press conference on Wednesday in a response to a question about whether he thought Beijing’s actions towards Canberra was responsible for a decline in how Australians viewed China.
“What I would like to tell you is that the measures China has taken on imported foreign goods are strictly consistent with Chinese laws and regulations and WTO rules with a view to protecting the legitimate rights and interests of relevant industries in China and the safety of our consumers,” he said.
“The measures are legitimate, lawful and beyond reproach.”
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Relations between China and Australia deteriorated in early 2020 after then prime minister Scott Morrison called for an independent enquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
China retaliated by imposing a series of trade sanctions against Australia targeting beef, wine, barley and coal exports, and issuing Canberra with a list of “grievances”.
Mr Wang last week earlier insisted a “reset” between Beijing and Canberra “requires concrete actions” from both leaders, in the wake of Anthony Albanese becoming Prime Minister.
He also urged the newly elected government to look at China-Australia relations in a “sensible and positive way” and to work with Beijing “in the same direction in the spirit of mutual respect and seeking common ground while putting differences aside”.
“Our position on China-Australia relations is consistent and clear,” Mr Wang added on Wednesday.
“We hope the Australian side will handle bilateral relations in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual benefit and work with China to promote the sound and steady development of China-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership.”
Mr Albanese last week insisted China has to drop its trade sanctions on a number of Australian industries before his government will begin to resolve the once strong trade partnership.
“It is China that has imposed sanctions on Australia. They need to remove those sanctions in order to improve relations,” the Prime Minister said.
“It is China that has imposed sanctions, it is China that has changed, and it’s China that needs to remove those sanctions.”
Canberra and Beijing have only just begun face-to-face communications again following a diplomatic freeze that lasted almost three years.
Defense Minister Richard Marles and his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe met early this month in Singapore where they discussed one another’s concerns in a “very frank and full exchange” during a one-hour meeting.