It is encouraging that Australian Minister for Trade Don Farrell acknowledged that trade and investment has always been “part of the bedrock” for relations between Australia and China and that there is much for the two sides to discuss how to make “that foundation even firmer”.
He made the remarks during a virtual meeting with Chinese Minister for Commerce Wang Wentao on Monday. During the meeting, Wang invited Farrell to visit China at a convenient time so that they could work together “to bring economic cooperation back on track”.
Coming after the meeting between the leaders of the two countries in Bali on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in November and after the meeting of the foreign ministers of the two countries in December, when they marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations, this is another sign of the two sides’ shared desire to bring more positive factors into play in their economic cooperation and trade.
The affirmative tone of the opening remarks by the two ministers, which were released by both sides shortly after their meeting, is a welcome sign as it indicates their meeting was productive. If so, that has undoubtedly set the stage for the two sides to work out practical solutions to settle some knotty trade issues that have appeared over the past few years. Their talks reportedly covered all the major issues concerning Sino-Australian trade and investment, which encountered some difficulties under the previous Australian government, due to its blind following of the United States’ strategy to contain China.
As Farrell acknowledged, China is, and continues to be, Australia’s largest trading partner by a very considerable margin, and also, significantly, an important source of investment.
The past five decades since the two countries established diplomatic relations clearly show that the Chinese market and Chinese investment, tourists and students bring jobs and benefits to Australia and deepen mutual understanding between the two peoples, and vice versa.
That their trade and investment cooperation has not proceeded smoothly in recent years has been to the detriment of both sides. There are broad prospects for cooperation in a wide range of areas such as climate change, the green economy and low-carbon and new energy technology and industry, and finding a pathway to fully tap into the full potential of their “highly complementary economies” is in the interests of both sides.
Having frank discussions may not resolve all the differences between the two countries, but facing up to the difficulties can help build trust and expand common ground.
By working with China to get their relations back on a healthy track, Australia would also set a good example to other US allies that a middle path can be found to balance between the two without hurting their own interests.
Editorial, China Daily