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Trade Minister Don Farrell says Australia too reliant on China


The federal government isn’t doing enough to trade with Southeast Asia and must diversify its economic ties to urgently curb economic reliance on China, according to the Trade Minister.

Senator Don Farrell said trading opportunities with countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines must be advanced “as quickly as possible” to curb over reliance on Australia’s largest two-way trading partner.

“We’re not doing enough trade with them, and so this whole strategy is designed to send people up to these countries and building relationships that don’t exist at the moment,” Senator Farrell told ABC.

“It doesn’t really matter which country you look at in Southeast Asia, but I think there are more opportunities there and more flights, more tourists.”

China accounts for nearly one-third of trade with the rest of the world, with exports of Australian goods into the nation hitting $10bn in March, a 31 per cent rise since last year.

Senator Farrell said tensions had stabilised since China slapped tariffs on key Australian exports, including lobster, barley and wine between 2020 and 2021, which set off a long-running trade war between the two nations.

The Trade Minister proposed Australia suspend its active wine complaint against China in exchange for a review on the tariffs. That led China to lift its bans on two of the country’s largest barley exporters this week.

Senator Farrell said he was hopeful his Chinese counterpart would accept his invitation to visit the Clare Valley wine region in South Australia.

“We started with roughly $20bn worth of trade pediments when we came into office. We’ve now whittled that down to about $2.5bn,” Senator Farrell said.

“We want to continue to trade with China effectively. Part of the stabilisation process is making sure that we get back the trade that we’ve lost over the last couple of years, but what we do need is to diversify that trade relationship so that we’re not dependent on one particular country.”

The minister’s comments come after Anthony Albanese announced about $100m to boost Australia‘s financial ties with Southeast Asia on Wednesday as he prepares to attend the ASEAN summit in Jakarta.

The funds are part of the Prime Minister’s long-term plan to ramp up underwhelming economic ties with ASEAN countries, which is expected to be shadowed by growing security and trade concerns around China.

Mr Albanese is due to meet with Chinese Premier Li Qiang for one-on-one talks on Thursday and said Australia was “working through some of the issues” around Chinese tariffs on Australian exports.


Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.