Australian PM to visit China to smooth trade ties

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Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Reuters

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will travel to China later this year to smooth over bumpy diplomatic ties that have now developed into trade problems for some of Australia’s biggest wine and beverage exporters, Fairfax Media reported.

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Relations between the two trade partners have cooled significantly in recent months, after Turnbull’s conservative coalition government proposed a bill to limit foreign influence in Australia, including political donations, but which Beijing has interpreted as “anti-China”.

No dates were immediately available for Mr Turnbull’s trip.

Several Australian businesses that export to China have complained that the cool diplomatic ties had spilled over into business, with delays and extra scrutiny being applied at customs and distribution.

Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates Ltd – the world’s biggest listed winemaker and owner of the Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Rosemount labels – has reported unusual delays of its exports hitting Chinese shelves.

Several unidentified Australian business owners who operate in China told Fairfax Media on the weekend that Chinese authorities had been unfairly targeting Australian products.

Trade Minister Steven Ciobo is already in Shanghai on a trade mission, the first visit from an Australian minister this year, but said that there was “limited scope” to resolve issues involving Australian businesses.

“We do have irritants from time to time, but you know what? We have irritants pretty much in every relationship that we have globally,” Mr Ciobo told reporters on Friday.

“So there’s nothing unique about that,” he added. “We talk through it, we work through it in a constructive way for the mutual benefit of both China and Australia.”

His visit is restricted to Shanghai, which has raised concerns over how he can intervene in the trade issue without meeting with senior government officials, who are based in Beijing.

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