MELBOURNE—Australia urged China on Sunday to respond to its requests to discuss easing tensions between the two trading partners after Canberra called for an international enquiry into the origins of the CCP virus.
China, accusing Australia of playing “petty tricks,” has recently suspended beef imports from four of Australias largest meat processors and is considering imposing hefty tariffs on imports of barley.
Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has requested discussions on the trade issues with his Chinese counterpart, he said in a television interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) on Sunday.
“That request has not been met with a call being accommodated at this stage,” he said on the ABCs “Insiders” program. “We are open to have that discussion, even where there are difficult issues to be discussed.”
Birmingham said Australia reserved its rights to bring a case against China at the World Trade Organization if Beijing imposed the tariffs on Australian barley.
Relations between Canberra and Beijing have been strained amid Australian accusations of Chinese meddling in domestic affairs and concern about what Australia sees as Chinas growing influence in the Pacific region.
The call for the probe into the origins of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, came amid rising criticism of Chinas handling of the outbreak by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has said that Beijing should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the pandemic.
Canberra has insisted the call for the enquiry into the pandemic, which it says most likely originated in a wildlife market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, was not politically targeted at Beijing.
Australia is set to join other countries in pushing for the probe when the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, gathers next week in Switzerland for its first annual meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic began. COVID-19 is the respiratory disease caused by the CCP virus.
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