Australians shouldn’t expect China to lift trade sanctions immediately after the breakthrough meeting between the two countries’ respective leaders, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles has said.
Mr Marles said there was much more work to be done to restore the “complex” and “important” diplomatic relationship between Canberra and Beijing.
“I think there’s a lot of water still to go under the bridge in our relationship with China,” Mr Marles told reporters in Perth.
In a diplomatic coup, Anthony Albanese secured a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali this week.
The Prime Minister reportedly held a second, informal conversation with Mr Xi and his wife at the summit’s gala dinner.
At their formal meeting on Tuesday, Mr Albanese urged Mr Xi to drop sanctions on Australian exports – including wine and barley – worth $20 billion a year.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Albanese noted China was Australia’s largest trading partner and said he thought both countries had taken an important step towards mending their troubled relationship.
Mr Albanese said he and Mr Xi had both raised the fact Australia and China have “highly complementary economies”.
“It is clearly in Australia’s interests to export some of the fine products that we have,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Indonesia.
“It’s in China’s interest to receive those fine products. And so, it was a very constructive discussion.”
Mr Marles said on Thursday the federal government valued a “productive relationship” with Beijing.
“We will obviously always speak up for Australia’s national interest and (even) when that does differ from the actions of any country, including China,” he said.
“But it’s important that we stabilise this relationship, and the meeting is a really important step in that regard.”
Reporters also asked Mr Marles about the backlash from mining lobby groups amid speculation Labor will increase taxes or impose a new tax on the sector to help with spiralling power prices.
The Albanese government is facing pressure to bring down energy prices after its first budget forecast a 56 per cent increase in electricity prices over two years, with gas prices also tipped to rise 44 per cent in the next 18 months.
The war in Ukraine and corresponding sanctions on Russian fossil fuels has been one of the driving forces behind a sharp increase in gas and coal prices, which has pushed up energy costs over the past six months.
Australian unions have called for a windfall tax on coal and gas exporters’ profits to stop them profiting from the war.
National polling by The Australia Institute suggests many Australians support the introduction of such a tax, as well as strengthening the petroleum resource rent tax to collect more revenue from exporters.
Mr Marles wouldn’t confirm any possible taxation changes or any other plans to bring down energy prices on Thursday, saying only that the government was still in talks with the resources sector.
“I think there is a sense across the country that we need to be doing what we can to put downward pressure on energy prices, given the impact that’s having on Australian households, on Australian businesses,” he said.
“That’s the problem that we are trying to solve. But in doing this, we will be working with the sector, with gas companies, with coal companies, to make sure that we get this done in the right way.”
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