Australian Treasurer Meets Chinese Finance Minister Over Trade Disputes at G20 Summit

By Alfred Bui
Alfred Bui
Alfred Bui
Alfred Bui is an Australian reporter based in Melbourne and focuses on local and business news. He is a former small business owner and has two master’s degrees in business and business law. Contact him at alfred.bui@epochtimes.com.au.
July 19, 2023Updated: July 19, 2023

Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers has met with his Chinese counterpart, Chinese Finance Minister Liu Kun, during a G20 meeting in India as the country seeks to progress further in resolving trade disputes with Beijing.

This was the first meeting between an Australian treasurer and a Chinese finance minister in four years following a diplomatic fallout, which led to Beijing imposing a coercive trade ban on $20 billion (US$13.6 billion) worth of Australian commodities in 2020.

As the two sides started to de-escalate the tension in the past year, the Chinese communist regime has loosened restrictions on some Australian products, such as coal and timber.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation after the meeting, the treasurer said Australia wanted to stabilise the relationship with Beijing with engagement and dialogue while acknowledging the difference between the two sides.

Mr. Chalmers also said he raised the issue of lifting trade restrictions with Mr Liu, noting that the Australian government would like to settle the disputes before Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited Beijing.

“We’ve been very clear publicly and privately … that we consider it to be in the interests of both countries for those trade restrictions to be lifted,” he said.

“We’d like to see some progress there in advance of a prime ministerial visit.”

Epoch Times Photo
China’s Finance Minister Liu Kun comes out during a break at the G20 meeting in Gandhinagar, India, on July 18, 2023. (Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images)

As the treasurer relayed Australia’s trade concerns to Mr. Liu, the Chinese finance minister agreed to speak to his ministerial colleagues about the issue.

At the same time, Mr. Chalmers said Australia wanted to maintain the relationship with Beijing in a pragmatic way.

“Recognising that we have differences … but overwhelmingly, this is a trading relationship and an economic relationship that serves both countries very well,” he said.

“So the overwhelming tenor of the conversation was a friendly, constructive conversation between two countries who are very important to each other.”

Australia Keeps A Close Eye on the Chinese Economy

The treasurer also discussed the grim outlook of the global economy and its implications with his Chinese counterpart.

Mr. Chalmers noted that Australia was closely monitoring the Chinese economy after it displayed signs of slowing down.

According to China’s latest official data, the country’s economy only grew by 0.8 percent in the June quarter, a sharp fall from the 2.2 percent recorded in the March quarter.

China’s official youth unemployment figures also reached 20.8 percent in May, with insiders pointing out that the real data could be several times higher.

“If the Chinese indicators are weak, if they’re softer than we anticipate, then obviously that has implications and consequences for us, and so we’re monitoring that very closely.,” Mr. Chalmers said.

At present, China still remains Australia’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade totalling $267 billion in 2020-2021.

Nevertheless, Australia has started to reduce its reliance on the Chinese economy as many industries successfully opened new export markets for their products after they were slapped with the sanctions.

The treasurer also raised the cases of journalist Cheng Lei and writer Yang Hengjun, two Australians currently imprisoned by the communist regime on charges that the Australian government rejected.

“We are very concerned about the welfare of both of these Australians. We do want to see these cases resolved as soon as possible so they can be back with their loved ones,” he said.

“Certainly, I was able to relay our concern. I was able to deliver that message. I think that is important.”