It’s necessary for us to continue to engage with China: Foreign Minister Wong

By Our Reporter
Penny Wong with South Australia Premier Peter Malinauskas and Premier Li Qiang in Adelaide. "A stable relationship between Australia and China benefits both countries and our region," said Penny Wong. Pic courtesy X

The Australia-China relationship, previously marked by tension, has seen a notable shift with the Chinese Premier’s recent visit to Adelaide, the first in seven years. This visit has generated considerable interest, with key discussions on policy taking precedence over symbolic gestures.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong spoke with radio hosts Will Goodings and David Penberthy about the significance of the visit, noting the necessity of engagement with China given its economic and political weight in the region. “I think it’s necessary for us to continue to engage with China because of who they are and their weight in the region and because we do live in the same region,” she said. Wong highlighted the importance of maintaining a balance between cooperation and addressing challenges, such as security issues and the status of Taiwan.

Minister Wong emphasised that Australia must assert its interests and values, working both independently and collaboratively with international partners. This approach aims to foster a safer and more stable region, reinforcing relationships through initiatives like the Quad Partnership and AUKUS.

A crucial topic during the discussions was the fate of Dr Yang, an Australian academic imprisoned in China. Minister Wong assured that his wellbeing remains a priority, with ongoing advocacy for his release and proper treatment.

Trade relations were another focal point, with particular attention to the economic impact on South Australian industries. “Obviously, wine is a big thing for our state. I was looking at the figures since the removal of duties on Australian wine at the end of March. Since that, in April, we exported $86 million of wine to China, but $80 million of that was from SA,” she noted. However, sectors like rock lobster farming still await resolution. Minister Wong expressed optimism about resolving these issues, highlighting the mutual benefits of removing trade barriers. “You’re right, there’s still more to go. Rock lobster is one of the items, one of the goods that we want to have trade impediments removed on what we’ll keep advocating for that. I continue to maintain, as I have all along, as we progress through barley and then wine and so forth, that this is in the interests of China as well as Australia.”

The visit underscores the complex dynamics of the Australia-China relationship, balancing economic interests with broader geopolitical considerations. As the situation evolves, the focus remains on strategic engagement and advocating for national interests. “That doesn’t, but we’re always going to be realistic about what that means. What that means is there will be challenges, differences that we have to manage. It does also mean there are areas where we can cooperate. But engagement is one of the ways in which you navigate some of the challenges that you refer to,” Wong explained.

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