China must pick up phone to support CPTPP, Australia says Business and finance

Trade Minister Dan Tehan says Canberra needs a ministerial dialogue to support China’s accession to the regional trade agreement.

Factor: Bloomberg

Australia must be able to hold ministerial talks with China as part of a process that will allow the world’s second-largest economy to join a regional trade agreement, Trade Minister Dan Tehan said.

“You need to be able to sit down and work specifically on market access issues,” Tehan told Bloomberg Television from Singapore on Wednesday. “So we needed some kind of ministerial dialogue so we could go through that market entry.”

The remarks highlight ongoing tensions between China and Australia, which escalated further last year when Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, which infuriated Beijing.

In response, China imposed punitive trade measures on Australian commodities from coal to barley, lobster and wine.

Australia is suing China in the World Trade Organization over tariffs on barley and wine [FILE: Denis Balibouse/Reuters]

Australia is suing China in the World Trade Organization over tariffs on barley and wine.

Tehan has previously said that all applicants for a comprehensive and progressive Pacific Partnership need evidence of “compliance with WTO commitments and existing trade agreements.”

Tehan plans to meet with colleagues from other countries at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore this week, including U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, but no formal dialogue with China is mentioned in her publicity.

The CPTPP issue has also complicated Taiwan’s application, as members are divided among democracies such as Japan, Australia and Canada, pushing for Taiwan’s accession, and Southeast Asian countries want to remain at China’s mercy.

Tehan said he has not had talks with Taiwan since it formally applied to join the agreement in September.

“Like any accession, the same rules apply to any economy and any country that wants to join the CPTPP,” Tehan said of Taiwan.

Separately, Tehan said Australia is “advancing” in a free trade agreement with India. Preliminary talks are likely over the next couple of weeks and a first round of talks is expected early next year, he said.

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