China keeps trade minister in deep freeze

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham is still waiting to speak to his Chinese counterpart about a beef and barley dispute, more than four weeks after requesting a meeting.

“Unfortunately our requests for a discussion have so far been met negatively,” Senator Birmingham told ABC radio on Monday.

“That’s disappointing, as I’ve emphasised time and time again.”

China slapped huge tariffs on Australian barley and banned beef imports from four abattoirs after the Morrison government led the charge for an independent global inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.

“Australia is open to having difficult discussions on matters upon which we may disagree with other countries but we will do so respectfully, thoughtfully, calmly,” Senator Birmingham said.

“It’s unfortunate when other nations won’t respond or reciprocate in kind.”

The Chinese government has also cautioned its citizens against travelling to Australia, warning of a significant increase in racist attacks during the pandemic.

Senator Birmingham, who holds the tourism portfolio, said the statement was frustrating and disappointing.

“This is an unhelpful statement, no doubt about that,” he said.

“We believe it’s an incorrect statement.”

Senator Birmingham said it would be some time until Australia started accepting international tourists again.

He said tourism campaigns launched before then would emphasise safety, tolerance and inclusion to ensure the attributes were well understood by potential visitors.

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