News National New Trade Minister Dan Tehan’s bid to open talks with China going nowhere

New Trade Minister Dan Tehan’s bid to open talks with China going nowhere

Scores of ships loaded with Australian coal have waited, some for months, to unload their cargoes. Photo: TND
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The appointment of a new trade minister doesn’t appear to have cracked the ice in Australia’s troubled relationship with China.

Dan Tehan, who took on the role after Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s cabinet reshuffle in December, has written to Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao to get the relationship back on an even keel.

But he hasn’t had a reply.

Mr Tehan said he had written a very detailed letter to his Chinese counterpart, who had coincidently been promoted to the position at roughly the same time as he was.

Trade minister Dan Tehan is being ignored by his Beijing counterpart. Photo: AAP

“I have said there are a lot of ways we can constructively work together, so now I wait patiently for that reply,” he told the ABC on Sunday.

China has been at odds with Australia since it promoted the idea of an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan last year.

Since then China has blocked a number of Australian commodities reaching its shores, despite there being a free trade agreement between the two countries.

Former trade minister Simon Birmingham had failed in the past to sort out matters when his phone calls were ignored.

However, Mr Tehan said the two countries are still able to work together in multilateral forms like the World Trade Organisation.

“I was on a hook-up with other trade ministers with my Chinese counterpart on Friday night where we were discussing reform of the WTO,” he said.

“We’ll continue to work to make sure that the approach that we take is very principled, but also where necessary, we’ll be patient in dealing with all the different countries that we have trading relationships.”