Don Farrell remains ‘very confident’ Beijing trade talks are on the agenda despite AUC criticism

The man charged with stabilizing trade relations with China is “extremely confident” that both he and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will continue to visit China this year, despite Beijing’s harsh criticism of the AUKUS deal.

But the opposition admitted that the relationship with China is “not in the best shape” at the moment, and AUKUS will make it more difficult.

The AUKUS deal, announced by Mr Albanese, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden would arm Australia with nuclear powered submarines – but China says the trio have embarked on a “path of error and danger”.

Beijing has vowed to diplomatically thwart the deal, announcing that it will increase its military build-up in the face of “malaise” from the United States and its allies.

It threatens the relationship Australia has been working to rebuild, and ahead of potential visits by both Trade Minister Don Farrell and Mr Albanese to Beijing this year.

However, Senator Farrell said he remains “very confident” that the outstanding trade issues — including ongoing tariffs — will continue to be worked on.

Commerce Secretary Don Farrell roughly met with Chinese Commerce Wang Wentao last month and accepted an invitation to travel to Beijing - possibly this year.  NCA NewsWire / POOL / Lukas Coch
camera iconCommerce Secretary Don Farrell roughly met with Chinese Commerce Wang Wentao last month and accepted an invitation to travel to Beijing – possibly this year. NCA NewsWire / POOL / Lukas Coch credit: NCA NewsWire

He told Sky News: “I had a very good meeting with my Chinese counterpart two weeks ago – it was a warm and friendly meeting and since then the officials have been busy on a range of issues.”

“Those will continue. I remain very confident that … the offer to go to China (this year) still stands.”

“We want a stable relationship with China, we want a mature relationship with China, but at the same time we want to make sure that everything we do is in our national interest and deals with our national security issues.”

Neither he nor the prime minister had yet finalized a date for their visit, he said, but as far as he knew the show was still there and he hoped it would be later this year.

Opposition defense spokesman Andrew Hastie said he wished Senator Farrell well in the difficult task of stabilizing trade relations with China, but said the government needed to be realistic.

“I don’t think the relationship is in the best of shape right now, and I think AUKUS will make it more difficult for them to get back where they want to go – so let’s wait and see,” he told Sky News, adding that he didn’t want to make it a partisan issue.

Responding to Chena’s criticisms, Mr. Hastie echoed Senator Farrell and said there had been a change in the strategic positioning of the Indo-Pacific region.

“China is going through the largest peacetime militarization since World War II, and we have to respond to that,” he said.

“We really want to contribute to the regional balance of power and by acquiring nuclear submarines, we will be a force for good sovereignty, and we will also be able to contribute to preserving the sovereignty of our neighbors as well.”

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Richard Marlis confirmed that China had been briefed ahead of the AUC announcement, but it was not clear if Beijing had accepted the offer.

It is understood that they have since accepted an offer to be briefed, but that hasn’t stopped Beijing from lashing out this week.

Australian nuclear submarine defense AUKUS The Chinese mission to the United Nations on Tuesday used Twitter to accuse AUKUS partners of fueling an arms race, and the deal was “a typical case of double standards”.

“AUKUS’ nuclear submarine cooperation plan is a blatant act that poses serious nuclear proliferation risks, undermines the international non-proliferation regime, fuels arms races, and harms peace and stability in the region,” a tweet read.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the American University in Kosovo had “totally ignored the concerns of the international community”.

They said, “They walk more in the path of error and danger.”

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