Canberra, Australia ( Associated Press) — Australia’s new government has urged China to lift trade restrictions if it wants to reestablish a bilateral relationship that plunged to new depths under the previous administration.
The Chinese prime minister’s letter of congratulations to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on his election victory was widely seen as an easing of Beijing’s two-year ban on high-level government contact with Australia. Prime Minister Li Keqiang said that China is ready to work with Australia to develop bilateral relations.
But Albanese said it was China, not Australia, that had changed since his centre-left Labor Party came to power in 2013.
China has created a series of official and informal trade barriers in recent years to billions of dollars in Australian exports, including coal, wine, barley, beef and seafood.
“It is China that has imposed sanctions on Australia,” Albanese told reporters at the Tokyo summit on Tuesday that he attended with President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“There is no justification for doing so and therefore they should be removed,” Albanese said.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers also called on China to immediately remove trade barriers between free trade partners.
“We would certainly like to see those restrictions and those tariffs removed. They are hurting our economy. They are making life difficult for some of our employers and workers in Australia and so obviously we take those measures. Would like to see happen,” Chalmers told Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Wednesday.
Before the Albanians and their Foreign Minister Penny Wong boarded a plane from Tokyo to return to Australia, she thanked Australian voters who gave her the “extraordinary honor of representing Australia in important international forums” in Saturday’s election.
“I will always work with integrity. I will always act with integrity in my dealings with other leaders and our friends and partners,” Albanese said in comments that may have been aimed at his predecessor, Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
During a National Press Club speech last week, Albanese blamed Morrison for sabotaging relations with other countries.
He said Morrison misled the United States that Labor supported a covert plan to provide Australia with a fleet of American nuclear-powered submarines. In fact, Albanese’s party was not informed of the plan until a day before it was announced in September.
Albanese also accused Morrison of leaking personal text messages to the media from Emmanuel Macron to discredit the French president’s complaint that Australia had given no warning that a French submarine contract would be cancelled. Macron also accused Morrison of lying, and French ambassador Jean-Pierre Thébault described the leak as a warning to other world leaders that the Australian government could weaponize his private communications.