Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government wants to restart dialog with Beijing, as a series of trade reprisals from China strain the already-weakened relationship between the two countries.
“We, of course, would like to see the dialog that was occurring to continue again and start again,” Morrison said at a press conference at the Group of Seven leaders meeting in the UK, according to a transcript sent by his office. “Australia is always ready to sit around the table and talk through how our partnership can be made to work.”
Ties between Canberra and Beijing, which became strained in 2018, nosedived last year when Morrison’s government called for independent investigators to probe the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and criticised Chinese actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
That spilled into trade reprisals from China, including tariffs of more than 200% on Australian wine for five years since March. Morrison said this week his government is seeking to take World Trade Organization action to resolve the dispute.
Australia’s attempts to make contact with Chinese authorities have repeatedly failed.
In an interview on Sky News on Sunday, Trade Minister Dan Tehan said he wrote a letter in January to his Chinese counterpart laying out ways they could constructively engage. “I’m still waiting for a response,” he said.
Before the G-7 gathering, Morrison said he’d seek support from other global leaders to counter what he called “economic coercion.” At a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the summit, Morrison discussed what he called issues of “mutual concern” that included the Indo-Pacific region.