Australia urges exporters to diversify from top trading partner China

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia wants exporters to diversify markets and become less dependent on China because it cannot separate economic and strategic ties, Foreign Secretary Penny Wong said a day after trading partners unveiled a way to settle a dispute.

Both nations have reached consensus to end their row over barley, they said on Tuesday, with Australia staying a case at the World Trade Organization while China speeds up a review of tariffs on Australian exports.

“Ensuring we diversify our export markets is an important part of our national resilience,” Wong said in a TV interview with Sky News on Wednesday.

“And the government will continue to encourage this because we want to make sure we have diversified export markets.”

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Trade with Australia’s main two-way trading partner, worth A$285 billion a year, continues while thawing ties allow Beijing to remove obstacles to a raft of Australia’s commodity exports in 2020 amid diplomatic row.

However, it is important to recognize that the relationship between the two nations “is not going back to where we were 15 years ago,” Wong said in media interviews.

“We know we want a more stable relationship with China, but we know we won’t be able to continue severing our economic relationship and our strategic relationship,” she told Nine’s Today show.

With China acting as a “great power in the world,” it is inevitable that there will be areas where Australia and China do not have the same interests, she added.

Wong called China’s recent military drills around Taiwan “destabilizing,” adding, “We would push for de-escalation.”

“Australia’s position is clearly not a unilateral change from the status quo,” she told Sky News.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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